The government has published the Courts Bill 2013. The changes proposed by the Bill include:
Extending the monetary jurisdiction limits of the Circuit and District Courts in civil proceedings. It proposes increasing the monetary limit of the Circuit Court to €75,000 from the current €38,092, and the limit in the District Court to €15,000 from €6,384.
Restricting the monetary jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court to €60,000 for personal injury actions.
Changing the “in camera” rule, to allow bona fide representatives of the media access to family law and child care proceedings.
A strict ban is proposed in respect of the publication of any material which would be likely to lead to the identification of the parties to proceedings or any child to whom they relate. Representatives of the Press covering such proceedings could face a term of three years' imprisonment and/or a €50,000 fine for breaking the rules on anonymity.
On publishing the Bill, Minister Shatter T.D, stated that the proposed changes should ultimately lead to a reduction of legal costs for individuals and companies, and ease the burden on the higher courts. The government hopes that the extension in the jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts will reduce the proportion of litigation currently being dealt with by the High Court, and lead to a fall in the number of appeals dealt with by the Supreme Court (where waiting times are currently up to four years).
Minister Shatter T.D. also noted that the creation of a Court of Appeal, should the proposed Autumn referendum on same receive public support, will lighten the burden presently imposed on the Supreme Court.
The Law Society has expressed concern that the District and Circuit Courts do not have enough resources to deal with the proposed heavier workload, and that additional judges will need to be appointed and other resources put in place.