The District Court
The District Court consists of a President and fifty four judges. The country is divided into twenty three districts with one or more judges permanently assigned to each district. Generally the venue at which a case is heard depends on where an offence was committed or where the defendant resides or carries on business or was arrested. Courts can sometimes take place at community centres and the like but most towns have a courthouse for such hearings.
Because of the limited jurisdiction of this court it is of limited interest from a litigation point of view. It is however very easy to be “caught offside by an action taken in the district court. This may typically involve the car damage in a motor claim where serious personal injury claims wait in the wings. Time limits are short and unless the policyholder notifies claims handlers of proceedings quite quickly, it is difficult to respond adequately. Advocacy in such cases is normally by solicitors only. Occasionally barristers are used if something important will arise from the action.
Each District Court office (with the exception of the Dublin Metropolitan District Court) deals with all elements of the work of the District Court. The District Court is a court of local and summary jurisdiction. The business of the District Court can be divided into four categories:- criminal, civil, family law and licensing. The District Court has a limited appellate jurisdiction in respect of decisions made by statutory bodies and in these appeals, the decision of the District Court is final except where a point of law is at issue. In such instances an appeal can be taken to the High Court. The District Court also deals with miscellaneous actions such as actions taken under the Control of Dogs Acts, applications for citizenship, applications to amend birth and marriage certificates and applications under the Environmental Protection Act, 1992 for orders in connection with noise reduction.
The civil jurisdiction of the District Court in contract and most other matters is where the claim or award does not exceed €6,350.