Tracey v The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Robert Eagar
Judgment Date22 March 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] IEHC 183
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[2007 No. 8488 P]
Date22 March 2019
BETWEEN
KEVIN TRACEY
PLAINTIFF
V.
THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND LAW REFORM, IRELAND, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, THE COMMISSIONER OF AN GARDA SIOCHANA, THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS, THE DUBLIN METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COURT, THE COURTS SERVICE

AND

DAVID REYNOLDS
DEFENDANTS

[2019] IEHC 183

[2007 No. 8488 P]

THE HIGH COURT

Misfeasance in public office – Constitutional and human rights violations – Malicious prosecution – Defendant seeking an order striking out proceedings – Whether the proceedings were frivolous or vexatious and/or bound to fail

Facts: The seventh defendant, the Courts Service, applied to the High Court seeking an order striking out the proceedings against the seventh defendant pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the Court and/or on the grounds that the proceedings were frivolous or vexatious and/or bound to fail. The statement of claim on which proceedings were based dealt with the issue of misfeasance in public office, constitutional and human rights violations, malicious prosecution, abuse of the legal process and perversion of the course of justice.

Held by the Court that the seventh respondent could not have any legal responsibility for the signing of orders in circumstances where it was carrying out its statutory duties. The Court held that, having had regard to the jurisprudence and in particular the comments of McCracken J in the Supreme Court in Fay v Tegral Pipes Ltd [2005] IESC 34, it was satisfied that the proceedings against the seventh defendant were bound to fail.

The Court held that it would strike out the proceedings as against the seventh defendant pursuant to its inherent jurisdiction.

Application granted.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Robert Eagar delivered on the 22nd day of March, 2019
1

This is a judgment in respect of an application by the seventh named defendant in the above entitled action (the Courts Service) seeking an order striking out the proceedings herein against the seventh named defendant pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the Court and/or on the grounds that the proceedings herein are frivolous or vexatious and/or bound to fail.

History of the proceedings
2

On the 15th November, 2007, the plaintiff issued proceedings against the following defendants – the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ireland, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Dublin Metropolitan District Court, the Courts Service and Mr. David Reynolds, seeking damages including nominal damages, exemplary and punitive damages, aggravated damages, general damages and special damages for misfeasance in public office, constitutional and human rights violations, malicious prosecution, abuse of the legal process and perversion of the course of justice.

3

The plaintiff also claims damages for loss, inconvenience and expense occasioned by the breach of contract and negligence including breach of duty by the defendants, their officers, servants or agents. He also seeks further and other reliefs for interest pursuant to the Courts Act, 1981 and costs.

4

The plaintiff is a litigant in person and has acted on his own behalf in these proceedings.

5

In respect of the sixth and seventh named defendants, Messrs A&L Goodbody entered an appearance on behalf of the sixth and seventh named defendants on the 7th December, 2007.

6

On the 22nd December, 2007 the plaintiff issued a statement of claim. (the Court will revert to the statement of claim later in the judgment) On the 18th January, 2008, Messrs A&L Goodbody issued a notice for particulars arising out of the statement of claim dated the 22nd December, 2007.

7

On the 21st February, 2008, the plaintiff sought an order of judgment against inter alia the sixth and seventh named defendants on the basis that they were in default of the defence. In response to that application, Ms. Sinead Hayes, solicitor with the firm of A&L Goodbody referred to the history of the proceedings and stated at para. 4: -

‘The plaintiff has failed to particularise any claim as against the sixth and seventh named defendants in a manner sufficient to allow the said defendants to understand the nature of the claim against them.’

At para. 6 she referred to the notice of particulars served on the plaintiff on the 18th January, 2008 setting out the correspondence sent by the solicitors on behalf of the sixth and seventh named defendants dated the 31st January, 2008 noting that his replies to particulars were necessary to enable the defendants to file their defence. She said that at that time the plaintiff had failed to provide replies to the notice of particulars.

8

This motion on behalf of the plaintiff came before McKechnie J. on the 31st March, 2008 and it was ordered that the plaintiff reply to the notice of particulars delivered by the sixth and seventh named defendants to the plaintiff dated the 18th January, 2008 within four weeks from the date of the perfection of the order, and that the sixth and seventh named defendants had three weeks from the date of receipt of the said replies to particulars for the delivery of a defence. Other orders were made in respect of other defendants, but these are not relevant to this judgment.

9

On the 25th April, 2008 Mr. Tracey served replies to the notice for particulars and the Court will revert to this matter later in the judgment. On the 16th June, 2008 the defence of the sixth and seventh named defendants was delivered by Messrs. A&L Goodbody on behalf of the sixth and seventh named defendants.

10

An application was made on the 14th October, 2008 on behalf of the sixth and seventh named defendants, for the following orders: -

(i) An order pursuant to O. 19, r. 28 dismissing the plaintiff's claim as against the sixth and seventh named defendants on the basis that same is frivolous and vexatious;

(ii) An order pursuant to O. 19, r. 27 – 28 striking out the plaintiff's pleadings as against the sixth and seventh named defendants on the basis that same disclosed no reasonable cause of action against those defendants;

(iii) An order pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court dismissing the plaintiff's claim as against the sixth and seventh named defendants on the basis that same are frivolous or vexatious or bound to fail.

11

This application was based on the affidavit of Ms. Margaret O'Neill who was then the acting Director of Circuit and District Court Operations in the Courts Service. On the 6th January, 2009, the plaintiff served a notice of cross-examination of Ms. Margaret O'Neill.

12

The motion brought by the sixth and seventh named defendants came before Hedigan J. on the 26th January, 2009 and he ordered that the plaintiff's claim as against the sixth and seventh named defendants be dismissed pursuant to O. 19, r, 28 on the basis that same was frivolous and vexatious. His order recited that pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court, that the plaintiff's claim as against the sixth and seventh named defendants was dismissed on the basis that same was frivolous or vexatious or bound to fail.

13

On the 11th February, 2009, the plaintiff served notice of appeal arising from the judgment of Hedigan J. dated the 26th July, 2009 and perfected on the same date.

14

At this stage there have been six High Court cases (including this case). In a number of the cases the plaintiff Karen Tracey, was also included, but not in this particular case. They were dismissed by the then President of the High Court, Kearns P., on the 4th March, 2011 for delay on the basis of what might be described as a finding of significant procedural failure on the part of the two plaintiffs, Kevin Tracey and Karen Tracey. Having regard to the decision of Hedigan J. which was the subject matter of an appeal, the decision of Kearns P. did not relate to these proceedings against the sixth and seventh named defendants.

15

In the early part of 2010, before the appeal against the order of Hedigan J. was listed in the Supreme Court there were a total of seven sets of proceedings in being which Mr. Tracey whether alone or in one guise or another, was the principal moving party and the elements of the State were the main defendants. In that context, in early 2010 the State respondents brought a motion seeking case management of all of these proceedings together. One of the cases was struck out by order of Charleton J. on the 29th June, 2010 but the other matters were listed by case management before Kearns P.

16

On the 4th March, 2011, Kearns P. dismissed all of Mr. Tracey's proceedings.

17

Mr. Tracey appealed to the Supreme Court against the order of Kearns P. on the 4th March, 2011.

18

In that context it should be emphasised that Mr. Tracey's appeal against the order of Kearns P. came before the Supreme Court in 2016 and Clarke J. in dealing with the decision of the President, raised the question as to whether the dismissal of each of the relevant proceedings was a proportionate response. He said:-

‘7.6 In summary, therefore, it seems to me that the trial judge was entitled to conclude that there had been inordinate and inexcusable delay, in the particular sense relevant to the facts of this appeal, by virtue of the persistent failure of the Traceys to present adequate medical reports to the Court so as to enable the Court to make an appropriate decision as to whether, and if so for how long, to put these proceedings on hold.

7.9 Nonetheless, in my view, in the light of the fact that the Traceys had progressed the relevant proceedings in a timely fashion up to that point and had at least provided some additional medical information, a dismissal of the proceedings was a disproportionate sanction to impose for the undoubted procedural failure present.

7.11 It follows that, in my view, the trial judge was in error in dismissing the relevant proceedings and that this appeal must, therefore, be...

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3 cases
  • Tracey v Minister for Justice & Equality
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 21 Diciembre 2020
    ...determined by the Supreme Court. Arising from the terms of that judgment, an application was then heard by Eagar J. in the High Court, [2019] IEHC 183, in which the proceedings against the Courts Service were struck out pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the court. Eagar J. noted at p......
  • Water Authority of Fiji v. Tabua Investments Limited
    • Fiji
    • High Court (Fiji)
    • 29 Julio 2022
    ...might not succeed but that he could not possibly succeed.” 21. In Tracey v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reforms & Others [2019] IEHC 183 (delivered on 22 March 2019) Eager J. found “…the category of proceedings that will be considered to be frivolous and vexatious is broader and e......
  • Tracey v The Minister for Justice and Equality and Law Reform
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 25 Octubre 2019
    ...prior application or this judgment”. Such an application was made by the Courts Service, and on the 22nd March 2019, in Tracey v MJE&LR [2019] IEHC 183 this Court held at para. 64: - “Having regard to the jurisprudence and in particular the comments of McCracken J. in the Supreme Court in F......

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