Judgments Of the Supreme Court

Talbot -v- Hermitage Golf Club & ors
Neutral Citation:
[2014] IESC 57
Supreme Court Record Number:
492/12 & 223/14
High Court Record Number:
2006 850 P
Date of Delivery:
Supreme Court
Composition of Court:
Denham C.J., Hardiman J., Charleton J.
Judgment by:
Denham C.J.
Judgments by
Link to Judgment
Denham C.J.
Hardiman J.
Charleton J
Denham C.J., Hardiman J.

Appeal No. 223/2014

Denham C.J.
Hardiman J.
Charleton J.
Thomas Talbot

Hermitage Golf Club

The Golfing Union of Ireland, and Eddie Murphy


Judgment delivered on the 9th day of October, 2014, by Denham C.J.

1. I agree with the judgment to be delivered by Mr. Justice Charleton, both the reasons given and the order proposed. Charleton J. has pointed out that delivery of this judgment today will constitute the 83rd day that the resources of the High Court and the Supreme Court have been directed towards this claim. There are some observations that I wish to make regarding case management.

2. The traditional practice in common law legal systems was that it was the parties and their lawyers who set the pace of a case. The courts did not intervene by actively managing the progress of the litigation process. This approach reflected the dominant laissez-faire attitude of the nineteenth century.

3. However, with the growth in the volume of litigation and the increasing complexity of cases, it became apparent that judges presiding in the courts must begin to proactively case manage cases and adopt case management practices and procedures.

4. Case management in civil litigation was developed in England and Wales in the mid 1990s. In Ireland an early initiative to introduce case management began in June 1996 by way of a High Court practice direction concerning personal injuries actions in which liability was not in dispute.

5. The adoption of case management in England and Wales came to the fore when the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, submitted two reports entitled Access to Justice, Interim Report, to the Lord Chancellor on the civil justice system in England and Wales (June 1995) and a Final Report (July 1996). Lord Woolf observed that:

      “Case management…involves the court taking the ultimate responsibility for progressing litigation along a chosen track for a pre determined period during which it is subjected to selected procedures which culminate in an appropriate form of resolution before a suitably experienced judge. Its overall purpose is to encourage settlement of disputes at the earliest appropriate stage; and, where trial is unavoidable, to ensure that cases proceed as quickly as possible to a final hearing which is itself of strictly limited duration.”
6. There is also jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the effect of Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and this has impacted on the traditional approach in common law jurisdictions, where the parties controlled the movement of a case through the courts system. Article 6.1 provides that:
      “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law….”
7. The European Court of Human Rights has heard a number of cases concerning delays in disposition of cases by national courts. In Buchholz v. Germany [1981] ECHR 2, it found that:
      “...the Convention places a duty on the Contracting States to organise their legal systems so as to allow the courts to comply with the requirements of Article 6 par.1, including that of trial within a ‘reasonable time.’”
8. When considering how proceedings before all civil courts in Germany are governed by the principle of the conduct of the litigation by the parties, the Court considered that such factors:
      “do not dispense the judicial authorities from ensuring the trial of the action expeditiously as required by Article 6.”
9. Similarly, in Price and Lowe v. the United Kingdom [2003] ECHR 409, the Court found that:
      “a principle of domestic law or practice that the parties to civil proceedings are required to take the initiative with regard to the progress of the proceedings does not dispense the State from complying with the requirement to deal with cases in a reasonable time.”
10. The European Court of Human Rights has consistently repeated that sentiment in other cases where there has been delay. See for example the cases of Mitchell and Holloway v. the United Kingdom [2002] ECHR 818; and McMullen v Ireland [2004] ECHR 404.

11. Irish jurisprudence is also relevant. This Court stated in Gilroy v Flynn [2004] IESC 98 at paragraph 13 that:

      “comfortable assumptions on the part of a minority of litigants of almost endless indulgence must end.”
12. We have now reached a position in Ireland where as Mr. Justice Hardiman explained in Cruise v Judge O’Donnell [2007] IESC 67:
      “We live in an era of case management, when a serious attempt is being made to deal with all litigation, civil or criminal, in an efficient manner.”
13. The use of judicial case management is crucial to the effective conduct of litigation, including where litigants are unrepresented by lawyers. This approach helps to define the key issues and to clarify the responsibilities between the parties. It enables managed use of limited court resources. It can assist by making the case more understandable for all those concerned, and may facilitate an early settlement between the parties.

14. Further, case management assists a court in determining a case within a reasonable timeframe. This is important for all parties in an action.

15. In this case the appellant filed very comprehensive written submissions which the Court received. However, he insisted on reading them out to the Court, and objected to questions from the Court. This is inconsistent with the proper conduct of appeals where full written submissions have been filed. The main purpose of an oral hearing is for the Court to seek and obtain clarification on the submissions.

16. The learned High Court judge took great care to hear and determine the issues raised by the appellant. I agree with Charleton J. that the conduct of the learned trial judge was exemplary. However, I consider that the Courts would benefit by a further development and use of case management so that the best use may be made of scarce court resources for the benefit of all litigants.

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