Abrahamson v The Law Society of Ireland

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMc. Cracken J.
Judgment Date15 July 1996
Neutral Citation1996 WJSC-HC 2635
Docket Number[1996 No. 102 J.R.]
CourtHigh Court
Date15 July 1996
ABRAHAMSON v. LAW SOCIETY OF IRELAND
WILLIAM ABRAHAMSON AND OTHER LAW STUDENTS
APPLICANTS

AND

LAW SOCIETY OF IRELAND AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
RESPONDENTS

1996 WJSC-HC 2635

JR No. 102/1996

THE HIGH COURT

Synopsis:

PROFESSIONS

Solicitors

Admission - Apprentice - Training - Regulations - Compliance - Examinations - Exemptions - Applicant undergraduates resident in the State - Statutory regulations formerly required success at 1st part of Law Society's final examination, subject to specified exemptions in respect of law graduates - Present amended regulations provided no specified exemptions from compliance with requirement - Former regulations held to be invalid by Courts - Legitimate expectation of applicants that representations made by Law Society in former regulations and brochures concerning exemptions would remain applicable to applicants - Law Society's statutory power to make appropriate regulations - Court without jurisdiction to interfere with exercise of statutory power - Declaration by court that each applicant's position to be regarded as an exceptional circumstance within current regulations - Solicitors Acts, 1954 and 1960 (Apprenticeship and Education) Regulations, 1991 (S.I. No. 9), regs. 13–15, 30 - Solicitors Act, 1954 (No. 36), ss. 24, 40 - Treaty of Rome (EEC), article 7 - (1996/102 JR - McCracken J. - 15/7/96)- [1996] 1 I.R. 403

|Abrahamson v. Law Society of Ireland|

WORDS AND PHRASES

"Legitimate expectation"

Law - Graduate - Solicitor - Enrolment - Condition - Success at first part of Society's final examination - Exemptions for law graduates - Exemptions cancelled during university course for law undergraduates - Applicant undergraduates led to believe that they would be granted exemptions on graduation - Applicants" legitimate expectation defeated by subsequent ruling that exemptions invalid - (1996/102 JR - McCracken J. - 15/7/96)

|Abrahamson v. Law Society of Ireland|

Citations:

SOLICITORS ACT 1954 S24

SOLICITORS (AMDT) ACT 1994 S40

SOLICITORS (AMDT) ACT 1994 S40(5)

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION) REGS 1991 SI 9/1991

SOLICITORS (AMDT) ACT 1994 S40(4)(b)

BLOOMER & ORS V INCORPORATED LAW SOCIETY OF IRELAND UNREP LAFFOY 22.9.95 1995/15/3882

TREATY OF ROME ART 6

SOLICITORS (AMDT) ACT 1994 S40(5)(j)

O'BRIEN V KEOGH 1972 IR 144

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS 1957

SCHMIDT V SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOME OFFICE 1969 2 CH 149

R V LIVERPOOL CORPORATION EX PARTE LIVERPOOL TAXI FLEET OPERATORS ASSOCIATION 1972 2 QB 299

COUNCIL OF CIVIL SERVANTS UNIONS V MIN FOR CIVIL SERVICE 1985 1 AC 374

WEBB V IRELAND 1988 IR 353

AMALGAMATED PROPERTY CO V TEXAS BANK 1982 QB 84

DUGGAN V AN TAOISEACH 1989 ILRM 710

FARM TAX ACT 1985 S4

PHILLIPS V MEDICAL COUNCIL 1991 1 IR 115

MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS ACT 1978 S27

WILEY V REVENUE COMMISSIONERS 1993 ILRM 482

HEMPENSTALL V MIN FOR ENVIRONMENT 1993 ILRM 318

TARA PROSPECTING LTD V MIN FOR ENERGY 1993 ILRM 771

AG FOR NEW SOUTH WALES V QUINN 1990 170 CLR 1

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION) REGS 1991 SI 9/1991 REG 13

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION) REGS 1991 SI 9/1991 REG 15(a)

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION) REGS 1991 SI 9/1991 REG 30

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION) REGS 1991 SI 9/1991 REG 15

SOLICITORS ACTS 1954–1960 (APPRENTICESHIP & EDUCATION)(AMDT) REGS 1992 SI 360/1992

SOLICITORS ACT 1954 S40(7)

SOLICITORS ACT 1954 S40(8)

1

Judgment of Mc. Cracken J. delivered on the 15th day of July 1996

2

All of the Applicants in these proceedings are law students pursuing courses for Undergraduate Law Degrees at one or other of the following Universities, namely University College Cork, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, University College Galway and the University of Limerick. The first Respondent (herein called "The Society") is a body corporate to which the education, training and examination of persons wishing to become Solicitors has been entrusted under the provisions of the Solicitors Acts, 1954to 1994.

THE RELEVANT PROVISIONS
3

Under Section 24 of the Solicitors Act, 1954as amended by Section 40 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994it is provided, inter alia, that:-

" Subject to this part of this Act, a person shall not be admitted as a Solicitor unless "

(c) he has duly attended such course or courses of education or training (or both) and passed such examination or examinations as may be prescribed or has been exempted as may be prescribed from attending such course or courses or passing such examinations, or any of them, except those examinations that are obligatory for him."

4

Under Section 40 of the Solicitors Act, 1954, which has now been amended, but which was applicable at the relevant times, the Society was empowered to make regulations providing for the holding by the Society at least once in every year of a final examination, which might be divided, if the Society thought fit, into two or more parts. Section 40(5) further provided:-

" Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing subsections, regulations for the purposes of this section may provide for:-"

(j) the exemption (subject to this Act) from examinations in whole or in part of persons who produce satisfactory evidence that they have acquired special qualifications."

5

Pursuant to these provisions, the Society made a series of regulations, the principal regulations being those contained in Statutory Instrument No. 9 of 1991, known as The Solicitor Acts, 1954and 1960(Apprenticeship and Education) Regulations, 1991. These regulations have been amended from time to time, but for the purpose of this judgment the relevant regulations are:-

6

a "13 (a) Pursuant to Section 40(4)(b) of the Act, the Society shall hold, at least once in every year, a final examination which shall be divided into three parts - the first part, the second part and the third part.

7

(b) Unless exempted pursuant to regulation 15 or regulation 24, every person seeking to be admitted as a Solicitor shall pass the final examination — first part, the final examination — second part and the final examination — third part."

8

a "15 (a) Subject to regulation 16(a), a person may, at the discretion of the Committee, be exempted from the final examination — first part, if such a person has achieved a standard specified by the Committee in a degree in law granted by one of the following Universities, namely:-

9

(i) The University of Dublin

10

(ii) The National University of Ireland, through one of the following constituent colleges, University College Cork, University College Dublin, or University College Galway:

11

(iii) The University of Limerick; or,

12

(iv) Dublin City University

13

And has, as part of that Law Degree Course and prior to the granting of that degree in law passed the university examinations in each of the subjects specified in Section 1 and Section 2 and has achieved, in passing each of those examinations, such a standard as may be specified by the Committee."

14

The Committee therein referred to is the Education Committee of the Society.

"30. Subject to the provisions of the Act, the Committee may, in exceptional circumstances and subject to such conditions as it deems appropriate, modify any requirement or provision of these regulations."

THE BLOOMER CASE
15

In proceedings in the case of Bloomer and Others -v- The Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. Ireland and the Attorney General, the Plaintiff's in those proceedings, who were all students at the Faculty of Law of Queens University Belfast, inter alia sought the following reliefs:-

16

2 "1. A declaration that graduates of the Queens University of Belfast holding a Degree of Bachelor of Laws (LLB) of that University are entitled to the like recognition and the like exemption from the final examination-first part of the first named Defendant as is afforded to graduates of the National University of Ireland, the University of Dublin and the University of Limerick respectively, who hold a primary degree in law of one of the said Universities or who hold a primary degree partly in law and partly in another discipline.

17

2. A declaration that the first named Defendant and second named Defendant and each of them, have been, and are, guilty of wrongful discrimination as regards graduates in law of the Queens University of Belfast."

18

This case was not taken by way of judicial review but was a full plenary action which went to a hearing lasting some fourteen days in front of Ms. Justice Laffoy. She gave judgment on 22nd September, 1995, in the course of which she held that regulation 15 quoted above was invalid in that it indirectly contravenes the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of nationality contained in Article 6 of the EEC Treaty. The result was that the claims of the plaintiff in that action failed, because their claim was in effect to be exempted from the final examination — first part under regulation 15, which the learned Judge held to be an invalid regulation. At page 53 of her judgment she summed up her conclusion as follows:-

" Accordingly, I find that regulation 15 indirectly contravenes the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of nationality in Article 6 of the EEC Treaty, exceeds the powers of the Society under Section 40(5)(j) and on that ground is invalid."

19

She also awarded the costs of those proceedings against the Plaintiff's. In the Order there was no reference to the invalidity of regulation 15 and it merely stated:-

" IT IS ORDERED that the Plaintiff's claim against all the defendants herein be and the same is hereby dismissed and that the Plaintiff's do pay to the defendants their costs of his Action when taxed and ascertained."

20

The Plaintiff's appealed this decision but before the appeal was heard in the Supreme...

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