On 22 March 2013 the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, announced the publication of the Courts Bill 2013. One of the policy objectives of the Bill is to increase the monetary jurisdiction of the Circuit and District Courts in civil proceedings to reflect the change in the value of money since the limits were last revised in 1991.
The current limits of the monetary jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts have remained unchanged since the Courts Act 1991. This Act capped the monetary jurisdiction of the District Court at €6,348.69 (£5,000) and €38,092.14 (£30,000) for the Circuit Court. The Courts and Courts Officers Act 2002 provided for increases to jurisdiction limits, however due to concerns about resource allocation in the Courts Service, they were never brought into effect.
The Courts Bill 2013 increases the jurisdiction limits to reflect changes in the value of money, broadly based on the increase in the CPI (Consumer Price Index) since 1991. It is therefore proposed to substantially increase the monetary jurisdiction limit in the District Court to €15,000 and €75,000 in the Circuit Court. An exception is made in the Bill for personal injuries proceedings in the Circuit Court, where the jurisdiction will be limited to €60,000 to address public policy concerns that an increased jurisdiction could lead to larger awards and consequently higher insurance costs.
It is anticipated that following the enactment of the Bill a greater number of civil actions will be facilitated in the lower courts, leading to reduced legal costs for parties to litigation and increased efficiency in the High Court. However, concerns have been raised regarding the additional resources which will be required to adequately deal with the inevitable increased caseload of the District and Circuit Courts. The Law Society of Ireland has warned that additional judges will need to be appointed to the Circuit and District Courts and other resources put into place to ensure the increased caseloads can be dealt with in an effective manner.
It is expected that the Bill will be enacted before the Dáil breaks for summer vacation.