Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Department of Justice and Equality

Courts Service

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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412. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Dublin County Registrar is not sitting for taxation of costs hearings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30193/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the taxation of costs hearings was the first body of adjourned work to be dealt with by the Dublin County Registrar upon the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. The Registrar has been sitting to hear taxation of costs matters in addition to all other business in her list and continues to do so in accordance with the Courts Service protocol.

A statement issued by the President of the Circuit Court on 8th May stated that all civil hearings which were adjourned as a result of the pandemic would be given a date by the office on a time-slot staggered basis.

The Dublin County Registrar put a mechanism in place to deal with all adjourned matters including the listing and hearing of taxation of costs applications. Notice of this mechanism was published on the Courts Service website and subsequently updated to include the mechanism for listing and hearing of new taxation of costs applications.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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413. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to the significant backlog of applications to the Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators of the High Court; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30194/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Legal Cost Adjudicators are independent office holders attached to the High Court.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquires made and the Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator (OLCA) has informed me that, assuming all formalities have been completed, the current waiting times for a case to be listed for hearing by the Office currently stands at approximately 16 weeks. This compares to a period of 8-10 weeks prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following the restrictions imposed in mid March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Legal Costs Adjudicators worked remotely and no physical adjudication hearings were held. The main OCLA office has remained open for business, continuing to accept e-filed applications and assign new dates for hearings, answering e-mail and phone queries,

Measure were taken to adapt the offices and adjudication hearing room to allow for safe resumption of physical hearings, in line with the Government roadmap. A return to work protocol was put in place at the end of May 2020. Newly installed remote hearing facilities were trialled 15th of June 2020. Steps were also taken to facilitate finalising matters without the need for an oral hearing in accordance with s.156(6) of the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015. Emails were sent to hundreds of parties and regretfully, there was only a small take up of cases on this basis.

Resumption of physical hearings with limited capacity and staggered hearing times were held. All outstanding cases have now been transferred into the Chief Legal Costs Adjudicators list and these will be dealt with in chronological order or where a case has a particular urgency.

The appointment of a third Legal Costs Adjudicator, due to take office on 19th of October 2020, is expected to assist in the process of disposing of cases and improving waiting times.

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