The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in a wide variety of matters. Unlike the High Court, it does not have complete powers in all matters. It can only hear matters that are specifically within its jurisdiction.
The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in relation to claims for breach of contract, most civil wrongs (tort) including negligence and restitution. The general Circuit Court jurisdiction limit apples to these type of claims. The general limit was of €38,092 (IR£30,000) until 2014, when it was increased to €75,000 (€60,000 for personal injuries. 2002 legislation to extend the limit to €100,000 was never commenced.
The Circuit Court has powers in land disputes where the rateable valuation does not exceed €254. This is a very considerable jurisdiction as due to manner in which rateable valuation has worked historcially, this covers most property in the State. The jursdiction is based on the land value for proceedings after 28th December 2016. There is jurisdiction on the Circuit Court in relation to property matters where the land has a market value of not more than €3,000,000.00.
The onus of proof therefore lies with the defendant to show that the market value of the subject property exceeds €3,000,000.00.
Besides these very common type of claim, the Circuit Court has power in a wide variety of other claims
The Circuit Court also has jurisdiction in the following types of matters:
- most family law matters;
- more complex licensing matters including grants of new licenses;
- certain administration and probate matters;
- claims for damages arising from pollution;
- land disputes below a certain value;
- most landlords-and-tenants cases for ejectment and vacant possession;
- all residential mortgage cases;
- dissolution of partnership;
- partition of land;
- trust applications.
Unlike the District Court, the Circuit Court has powers to grant injunctions and other equitable remedies.
County Registrar Jurisdiction
The County Registrar manages the Circuit Court Office. In addition, the County Registrar has registration in relation to many pre-trial and case management applications in the Circuit Court. Some of these powers are equivalent to those in which Masters have jurisdiction power in the High Court.
The range of (pre-trial) orders which the County Registrar may make, has greatly expanded in the last 20 years. They include
- orders for extension of time;
- orders for discovery and inspection of documents;
- certain orders for the appointment of a receiver
- certain orders for garnishee enforcement against debts receivable;
- orders in relation to service of legal proceedings;
- orders to amend proceedings,
- orders for payment out of funds in court,
- orders in uncontested cases to have an account and enquiries taken;
- order for the issue of proceedings outside the State;
- certain probate orders;
- orders in relation to enforcement of court orders;
- orders for transfer of proceedings;
- orders allowing third parties to be brought into proceedings;
- certain orders for recovery of a specific amount or specific item;
- orders for judgment in unliquidated damages claims where no appearance or defence has been entered;
- order for recovery of land where no appearance or defence has been entered;
- order for recovery of land on a mortgage where no appearance or defence has been entered.
The County Registrar has powers to tax bills of cost and certify the amount properly due on direction by the judge. The County Registrar may refer matters to the Circuit Court judge. Most matters on which the County Registrar has jurisdiction, may be appealed to the judge.
Certain applications relating to the parties and proceedings may be made to the County Registrar. They include the appointment of a guardian to represent the interests of a person under age or not mentally competent in legal proceedings; orders amending proceedings when a person becomes of full age; orders correcting clerical errors in proceedings and orders to enforce court orders.
Where a court action requires that accounts and enquiries be made in relation, for example, to a partnership or an estate, the County Registrar may be directed to make enquiries and render accounts in relation to particular matters. The County Registrar may order the placing of advertisements in cases where enquiries are being made in relation to incumbrances and persons having an interest in the matter.
In certain types of cases, persons may have to verify their claim in relation to the subject matter of the accounts and enquiries. The proofs are made to the County Registrar pursuant to the court order. The County Registrar prepares certificates certifying matters required to be certified to the court.
The Circuit Court has wide powers in relation to liquor licenses. The District Court has powers in more minor and routine licensing matters. The more important applications are made to the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court grants new intoxicating liquor licences. It also grants hotel licences, special restaurant licences, club registration of and holiday camp licences.
The Circuit Court grants licenses in accordance with criteria laid down by law. For example, in the case of a new publicans’ licence, it is necessary to extinguish another licence. There are distinct criteria for other licenses. In some cases, new license may be freely granted subject to certain conditions.
The Circuit Court determines the fitness of the premises and the applicant for the grant of the licence. Applications for licences are generally advertised and notified to Garda Siochana and the Fire Authority. The requisite requirements depend on the particular legislation which confers the power.
In many licensing cases, the matter will be uncontested. It will be largely a matter of the correct proofs being laid before the Court. If there is an objection on behalf of Garda Siochana or Fire Authority, the matter may be contested. Witnesses may be required to give verbal evidence as to the requisite proofs applicable to the particular licence or in the event of an objection. .
Licensing applications are usually served on the Gardai and Fire Authority. Third parties are commonly given the opportunity to object. The Circuit Court hears appeals in licensing matters from the District Court.
Landlord and Tenant
Many proceedings relating to land and to Landlord and Tenant Act matters, are heard in the Circuit Court. Ejectment proceedings to recover land may be brought in the Circuit Court. A application for an order for ejectment, for ejectment for non-payment of rent, forfeiture or overholding may be taken where the rateable valuation does not exceed €254. .
Where a tenant claims a new tenancy, an application may be made to the Circuit Court to determine the rights and fix the terms of a lease, if the tenant is so entitled. Where possession proceedings for recovery of possession after expiry of a lease or tenancy, the tenant may counter-claim for a new lease Landlord and Tenant Act rights of renewal. See chapters on landlord and tenant.
Where the terms of a lease are fixed by court, it is possible for a landlord or tenant to apply for rent review every five years.
Proceedings for enforcement of planning breaches may be brought to the Circuit Court. Any person may seek a injunction prohibiting unauthorised development. The application may be brought in the Circuit Court.
Numerous appeals from statutory bodies and tribunals are made to the Circuit Court. In some cases there may be an entire re-hearing. In other cases, applications are made to the Circuit Court to enforce an order of a tribunal which is not being complied with.
The Circuit Court has powers in relation to many disputes relating to probate and to the administration of deceased persons\’ estates. It has significant powers in probate and administration matters.
Probate claims relate to the validity of the will. Administration claims relate to implementation of the terms of the will or intestacy. In addition there are certain claims made by children and some by spouses, may be taken in the Circuit Court.