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Infrequently Asked Questions

1. Are Pleadings public documents?

No, in the sense that the public do not have a right of access to Pleadings.

2. Do the parties in the litigation have a right to make Pleadings public?

Yes, subject to the necessity for care. Firstly, Pleadings contain allegations or assertions. Court proceedings are presumed to culminate in the production of evidence by a party to support the allegations contained within the Pleadings. The publication of claims of wrongdoing in a private dispute, subsequently unsubstantiated, would clearly be questionable. Indeed, publication of such claims would be a separate actionable wrong by the publisher.

3. Apart from reputation are there any other interests requiring protection?

Yes. The administration of justice on occasion may need protection. Actions likely to interfere with the due administration of justice are undesirable and wrongful. In Ireland, it is settled law that the publication of extraneous matter or references before or during the course of a criminal trial, not being reportage of events occurring in the court room can be adjudicated a contempt of court.

4. Are there countervailing issues showing merit in the publication of Pleadings?

Yes. In Ireland, with very, very rare exceptions, justice must be dispensed in public. However, oral transactions in court are often, in fact normally, impenetrable to members of the public or the press and the principle of public justice is not in fact observed. Recently the practice of the High court of reading its judgments in open court has been curtailed and the written judgment is handed out to the parties. This makes it more difficult for the press and the public to follow events.

5. Does the Irish High Court hold possession of Pleadings?

No, the practice has changed. Nowadays the court office only receives the initiating document or summons. Subsequent pleadings are exchanged between the parties. This change is relatively recent. From the establishment of the court all pleadings were filed in the court office. These pleadings were emphatically not public documents. The public had no access to them with one exception. Members of one branch of the legal profession were permitted access to files regardless of whether they had a role in the dispute between the parties. This exception existed to facilitate the dissemination of legal drafting precedents to the legal profession. However, the privilege was confined to barristers and was denied to solicitors.

6. Is the High Court confined to adjudicating on private disputes?

No. A substantial jurisdiction is vested in the court to adjudicate on public law issues, usually in the form of applications for “judicial reviewâ€?. Wrongdoing or legal mistakes or maladministration can be brought before the High Court to be remedied. By definition, at least one of the parties to these disputes is a public body. Public bodies are accountable to the public in one way or another and issues relating to their functions are public business and the public have an interest in their outcome. They also have, of necessity, a right to see the issues as set out in the pleadings in order to understand the case.

7. Is an issue involving European Union law a special case?

Yes. The European Court of Justice publishes a summary of the pleadings of the parties on the web. The pleading of any dispute turning on EU law should also be published.