Houston v Doyle

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr Justice Maurice Collins
Judgment Date22 October 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] IECA 289
Docket NumberAppeal No 2020/004
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Date22 October 2020
BETWEEN
EUGENIE HOUSTON
Plaintiff/Appellant
AND
WENDY DOYLE
PRACTISING UNDER THE STYLE OF WENDY DOYLE SOLICITOR
Defendant/Respondent

[2020] IECA 289

Donnelly J.

Collins J.

Binchy J.

Appeal No 2020/004

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Recusal – Isaac Wunder order – Joinder application – Appellant appealing against two orders made by the High Court – Whether the Isaac Wunder order made by the High Court should be set aside

Facts: The plaintiff/appellant, Ms Houston, appealed to the Court of Appeal against two orders made by the High Court (Reynolds J) on 3 December 2019. The first of those orders had a number of elements. First, the Judge refused the plaintiff’s application to recuse herself from hearing the motions before the Court. Second, the Judge acceded to the application of the defendant, Ms Doyle, to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim on the ground that it was an abuse of process. Third, the Judge directed the plaintiff to pay the costs of the motion and the action and refused a stay on that order. Finally, the Judge ordered that the plaintiff be “restrained from instituting any further proceedings in the High Court without the prior leave of President of the High Court”. By the second order, the Judge struck out a motion brought by the plaintiff to change the title to the proceedings and join a further six defendants, those proposed defendants being partners in a firm of solicitors, Tully Rinckey, in which the defendant had been a partner for a time. The Judge also made an order for costs in favour of the firm, measuring those costs in the sum of €1,200 plus VAT. Again, the plaintiff’s application for a stay on that order for costs was refused.

Held by Collins J that Ms Houston had not put any material before the Court capable of justifying any suggestion of actual bias on the part of the Judge. In his view, view, the Judge was correct to conclude that the proceedings were an abuse of process and that Ms Houston’s appeal from the Judge’s order that the proceedings be dismissed must fail. Collins J held that, having decided that the proceedings should be dismissed, the Judge was entitled to take the view that it followed that the joinder application had to be refused. He noted that, in the circumstances, Ms Houston did not have an opportunity to be heard either as to the making of an order at all or the breadth of the order. It followed, in Collins J’s view, that the Isaac Wunder order made by the Judge must be set aside. He noted that no arguments were advanced by Ms Houston as to why the Judge was wrong to make the costs orders that she did; Ms Doyle’s application to dismiss was successful and, that being so, the costs of the application, and of the action, followed the event. Collins J held that, as regards the costs order made in favour of Tully Rinckey on the joinder application, that order was clearly one which the Judge was entitled to make and Ms Houston had not identified any basis on which the Court could properly interfere with it.

Collins J held that he would: dismiss Ms Houston’s appeal from the Judge’s refusal to recuse herself; dismiss Ms Houston’s appeal from the order dismissing the proceedings; allow Ms Houston’s appeal from the Isaac Wunder order and set aside that order; dismiss Ms Houston’s appeal from the order striking out the joinder application; and affirm the orders for costs made by the Judge. He held that he would therefore affirm both of the orders the subject of this appeal, subject to setting aside the Isaac Wunder order.

Appeal allowed in part.

JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Maurice Collins delivered on 22 October 2020
BACKGROUND
1

The Plaintiff appeals two orders made by the High Court (Reynolds J) on 3 December 2019. The first of those orders has a number of elements. First, the Judge refused the Plaintiff's application to recuse herself from hearing the motions before the Court. Second, the Judge acceded to the Defendant's application to dismiss the Plaintiff's claim on the ground that it was an abuse of process. Third, the Judge directed the Plaintiff to pay the costs of the motion and the action and refused a stay on that order. Finally, the Judge ordered that the Plaintiff be “restrained from instituting any further proceedings in the High Court without the prior leave of President of the High Court.” By the second order, the Judge struck out a motion brought by the Plaintiff to change the title to the proceedings and join a further six defendants, those proposed defendants being partners in a firm of solicitors, Tully Rinckey, in which the Defendant had been a partner for a time. The Judge also made an order for costs in favour of the firm, measuring those costs in the sum of €1,200 plus VAT. Again, the Plaintiff's application for a stay on that order for costs was refused.

2

Before addressing the Plaintiff's appeal further, it is necessary to look at the Plaintiff's claim against the Defendant and the background to it.

3

Ms Houston, the Plaintiff, is a practising barrister. The Defendant, Ms Doyle, is a practising solicitor. These proceedings have their roots in previous proceedings brought by Ms Houston against Ms Doyle. In 2014 Ms Houston issued High Court Proceedings (Record Number 2014/3904P) in which she sought damages for defamation from Ms Doyle. Those proceedings were settled before hearing on 14 February 2017 and an order was made by the High Court (MacEochaidh J) by consent on that date which ( inter alia) provided for the payment by Ms Houston of Ms Doyle's costs. The costs payable on foot of that order, as well as two orders for costs that had made in the course of those proceedings on 27 February 2015 and 12 October 2015, were subsequently taxed by the Taxing Master in a total amount of €58,888.89 and a Certificate of Taxation in that amount issued on 14 July 2017. None of the costs orders just referred to were appealed (and as already noted the order of 14 February 2017, which accounted for much the largest part of the total costs allowed, was made by consent). Furthermore, while it was open to the Plaintiff to carry in objections to the amount of costs allowed by the Taxing Master, she did not do so.

4

Separately, in June 2015 Ms Houston brought District Court proceedings against Ms Doyle, and another party, apparently for the recovery of fees allegedly payable to her. That claim was dismissed by the District Court in April 2017 and the court made an order for costs in favour of Ms Doyle. The costs recoverable on the District Court scale totalled €4,700. The District Court order was not appealed by Ms Houston.

5

Ms Doyle subsequently applied to the Property Registration Authority to have judgment mortgages registered against property owned by Ms Houston in Naas, Co. Kildare and in the period between June and August 2017 four judgment mortgages - one in respect of each of the orders for costs already referred to - were registered on the relevant Land Registry Folio.

6

The proceedings giving rise to this appeal were commenced by Ms Houston on 20 July 2017. The Indorsement of Claim gives little insight into the claim being made, the following being the reliefs claimed:

“1 Ex debito justitiae, Order(s) in favour of the Plaintiff in the matter of Eugenie Houston v Wendy Doyle, High Court Record Number 2014/3904P

2. Declaratory and other relief in respect of the taxation of costs in the matter of Eugenie Houston v Wendy Doyle, High Court Record Number 2014/3904P

3. Declaratory and other relief in the matter of Eugenie Houston v GD Gendist and Wendy Doyle, District Court record number 3965/15.” (emphasis in the original)

7

Prior to any further step being taken in these proceedings (including, it seems, their service on Ms Doyle), Ms Doyle brought well-charging proceedings [Record No 2017 377Sp]. Those proceedings (“ the Well-charging proceedings”) issued in September 2017 and, after an unsuccessful application by Ms Houston to have them struck out as being frivolous and vexatious, came on for hearing before Allen J in the High Court in March 2019.

8

By then, Ms Houston had delivered a statement of claim in these proceedings [2017/6661P]. Paragraph 3 of that document characterises the action as one “ seeking relief in respect of costs”. The same paragraph pleads that Ms Houston “asserts that orders used by the Defendant to obtain judgment mortgages on the Plaintiff's home are void or in the alternative are voidable. Void orders do not exist as a matter of law and therefore cannot be appealed or judicially-reviewed.” The Statement of Claim is entirely silent as to the basis on which Ms Houston asserts that the costs orders are “void or .. voidable”. Paragraph 6 of the Statement of Claim refers to further High Court actions that had been instituted by Ms Houston, namely Houston v O'Neill & others [2014/10610P] and Houston v Geoghegan & others [2018/785P].Within those proceedings”, it is pleaded, “ the Plaintiff has claimed inter alia that those defendants interfered with the right of the Plaintiff to sue Wendy Doyle, the Defendant herein, and is seeking as special damages any and all costs associated with dealing with Wendy Doyle in these proceedings. At the conclusion of the within proceedings, should there be any financial liability at all towards the Plaintiff herein, then any such amount would form part of the special damages claim by the Defendant against [the defendants in those other proceedings].” It will be necessary to refer to those other proceedings (to which I shall refer as “ the Bar Council proceedings”) further below. Paragraph 8 of the Statement of Claim seeks to have the four judgment mortgages registered against the Plaintiff's property set aside, as well as “declarations that the purported ‘orders’ underpinning them are void”. An order setting aside the judgment mortgages is then sought in addition to the reliefs included in the Indorsement of Claim.

9

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6 cases
  • Joseph Sheehan v Talos Capital Ltd
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 26 November 2021
    ...make an Isaac Wunder order against Dr Sheehan and no application for such an order was made by Talos. In my judgment in Houston v Doyle [2020] IECA 289 (Donnelly and Binchy JJ agreeing), I expressed the view that there may be circumstances where, even in the absence of such an application, ......
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    ...be recalled that in addition to the plaintiffs' rights the defendants must also have rights. As Collins J said in Houston v Doyle [2020] IECA 289: “ 64. Courts are, rightly, reluctant to make such orders and the circumstances in which it is appropriate to do so will be “very rare”, given th......
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    ...a number of orders, all of which were appealed by Ms Houston to the Court of Appeal, which gave its judgment on the substantive appeal ( [2020] IECA 289, Collins J) on 22 October 2020. In the course of its judgment, the Court of Appeal summarised the relevant facts of the Houston v Doyle ma......
  • M. v M. (Judicial review: set aside leave)
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    ...who would be affected by any such order is given an adequate opportunity to be heard before any decision is made ( Houston v. Doyle [2020] IECA 289). 16 As appears, the power to make such a restraining order forms part of the High Court's inherent jurisdiction, and this power extends to the......
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