A quick note on today’s developments at the Supreme Court.
Most notably, the Court delivered judgment in McGowan v. Labour Court (my preview of the judgment is here). The Court cut through the procedural thicket and proceeded to rule on the main issue in the case. It ruled that the system of Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) for setting employment terms in certain industries is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. The Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the REA system is subject to the one judgment rule, and Judge O’Donnell delivered the judgment of the Court (available here). The Irish Times summarizes it here. The Court didn’t seem to think the REA system was even close to being constitutional:
[T]here is a wholesale grant, indeed abdication, of lawmaking power to private persons unidentified and unidentifiable at the time of grant to make law in respect of a broad and important area of human activity and subject only to a limited power of veto by a subordinate body. In effect, Part III allows the parties to an employment agreement to make any law they wish
… keep reading Today at the Supreme Court: McGowan and More
Earlier today, the Supreme Court rejected Marie Fleming’s challenge to Ireland’s ban on assisted suicide. The judgment of the Court in Fleming v Ireland was delivered by the Chief Justice, and it’s available here. So section 2(2) of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 survives unscathed, and it is still a crime in Ireland to aid, abet, counsel, or procure another’s suicide or attempted suicide.
Here’s a quick guide to the important parts of the Supreme Court’s judgment:
… keep reading An Introduction to the Supreme Court’s Fleming Judgment
If a person is arrested for drink driving, and a Garda asks her to provide a breath sample, it’s an offence for her to refuse or fail to comply with the request. What if she just can’t provide a breath sample, because of a medical condition? Well, there’s a statutory defence if the accused can satisfy the court of two things, set forth in section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. First, she has to show that she had a “special or substantial reason” for failing to provide the sample. So far, so good: the medical condition should do the trick.
But that’s not enough. To avail of the defence, she also has to show that “as soon as practicable … [s]he complied (or offered, but was not called upon, to comply) with the requirement under the section concerned in relation to the taking of a specimen of blood or the provision of a specimen of urine”. This second condition, if you read the statute literally, can be satisfied in two ways:
(a) by complying with a Garda officer’s request for a blood or urine sample; or
(b) by offering to give a blood or urine sample (even if the offer isn’t accepted, you’re OK as long as you offer).
What if the suspect is never asked for a blood or urine sample? Is she guilty of an offence unless she offers to provide one? That seems a harsh and unreasonable rule
… keep reading New Judgment: DPP v. Cagney
Earlier today, the Supreme Court delivered reasons for its earlier decision in McCrystal case. In McCrystal, the Court ruled that the government breached the McKenna principles by spending public money on a one-sided information campaign for the children’s rights referendum. Three supporting judgments appeared on the Courts Service website this evening (from media reports we learn that Judge O’Donnell also delivered a written judgment) (UPDATE: see below for a link to Judge O’Donnell’s judgment). As well as providing links to the three available judgments, I will pick a choice portion from each below.
… keep reading McCrystal Judgments
The European Court of Justice delivered its decision in Pringle v. Ireland this morning. Answering three questions referred to it by the Irish Supreme Court, the ECJ upheld the European Stability Mechanism against Pringle’s challenges. The decision is available here. (Health warning: the decision is typical example of dry ECJ prose.)
UPDATE: Here’s a fuller account of the decision from Professor Kenneth Armstrong of Queen Mary University, London.
There is so much to say this week that I will split the preview into two parts. The Supreme Court will hear eight cases and deliver judgment in two. As the Legal Diary shows, the Court is exercising its capacity to sit simultaneously in two divisions, and will do so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
I’ll start with the judgments. On Tuesday, the Court will rule on ICDL GCC Foundation FZ-LLC v. European Computer Driving Licence Foundation Ltd. Here’s what I said back in April when the case was up for hearing:
It’s a hefty breach of contract dispute between the Foundation, which organizes the Computer Driving Licence, and one of the Foundation’s licensees in Saudi Arabia.
… keep reading Weekly Preview for 12th November 2012 (Part 1)
The Supreme Court has ruled today in the McCrystal case that the government-funded information campaign on the Children’s Rights referendum violated the constitutional requirement of impartiality. The Court seems to have reaffirmed and endorsed its previous decision in McKenna v. Ireland (No. 2) ( 2 IR 10; available here), but we will have to wait for written judgments. (UPDATE: A written version of the ruling is now here; reasons to come in December).
The referendum will go ahead on Saturday, but more litigation
… keep reading McCrystal (and a sequel?)
Judgments from the Seán Quinn Jr. appeal are now available on the Courts Service website. Judge Fennelly appears to be the only member of the majority who produced a written judgment; that judgment is here. The Court ruled as follows: (1) Judge Dunne was “amply justified” in finding that Seán Quinn Jr. was in contempt of court with respect to the $500,000 payment from the account of QPU to Larissa Puga. But (2) the coercive orders imposed against Seán Quinn Jr. were procedurally flawed because (a) Seán Quinn Jr. didn’t get adequate notice before the High Court imposed them and (b) the vast majority of the coercive orders were unconnected to the specific finding of contempt.
Judge Fennelly sums up the second part of the ruling at paragraphs 111 and 112:
111. Regrettably, the procedures followed by the Bank
… keep reading Judgments from the Seán Quinn Jr. appeal
By a 4-1 margin, the Supreme Court has rejected Seán Quinn Jr.’s appeal against his three-month sentence for contempt of court. It wasn’t a total victory for IBRC. The Court upheld the three-month sentence to force compliance with an order to unwind one particular asset-stripping scheme in Ukraine. But it set aside a series of other coercive orders, ruling that there was insufficient evidence Seán Jr. was personally involved in the particular asset-stripping schemes covered by those orders. The Irish Times seems to have the clearest media report of what the Court ruled today.
I don’t think it’s too dramatic to characterize this litigation as a battle between the Quinn family and the Irish legal system. Today’s ruling surely won’t be the end of the battle. The parties will be back in the High Court on Friday; the ball is in Judge Dunne’s court. It seems that the Supreme Court left open the possibility that Seán Jr. could be jailed for a longer period. It also seems entirely consistent with today’s ruling that Seán Sr. could soon be joining his son behind bars.
This is the second part of my round-up of Supreme Court decisions from earlier this year that I didn’t manage to cover when they were released. (Here’s Part 1). These five are all from the month of May.
(6) Keegan v Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission  IESC 29: Mr. Keegan is a Garda Sergean, and he’s under investigation by the Ombudsman. He has brought a judicial review action to stop the investigation. After he filed the original action, he sought to amend the grounds on which he seeks judicial review by adding a new ground. The Supreme Court allowed him to do so. Judge Fennelly’s judgment sets out a fairly relaxed approach to amendments of judicial review actions. The judgment is worth reading for anyone involved in this area of practice in Ireland, and it’s available here.
(7) Danske Bank v Hegarty  IESC 30: This case was about how to interpret a settlement agreement.
… keep reading This Year’s Unblogged Judgments (Part 2 of 3)
This site is essentially a hobby; I don’t always have time to note every development. And so, like the Supreme Court itself, I have my own backlog to slay. There are several Supreme Court judgments from 2012 that I haven’t yet covered. I’ll do a round-up of those unblogged written judgments–here’s the first installment. I’ll be sure to finish the job before the new law term starts in October.
(1) MJELR v. McGuigan  IESC 17: Brendan McGuigan is wanted by the Lithuanian authorities on charges that
… keep reading This Year’s Unblogged Judgments (Part 1 of 3)
On Monday, the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court decision in Emerald Meats v. Minister for Agriculture,  IESC 48. The Supreme Court judgment, by Judge O’Donnell, is now available here.
The appeal was all about damages. Twenty-two years ago (!) the government wrongly denied Emerald Meats the right to import 177 tonnes of beef. As a result of the denial, Emerald went out of business. Quantifying damages in a case like this is pretty difficult. The High Court had to try to figure out what Emerald Meats would have made if it had stayed in business. As Judge O’Donnell says, this kind of counterfactual exercise is “necessarily speculative.” In the court below, Judge Feeney applied a rough-and-ready methodology, using profit figures from another meat business by analogy, and the methodology yielded a figure of €2.45 million. Emerald wanted more and appealed; the government cross-appealed.
The Supreme Court affirmed the calculation as a reasonable one,
… keep reading New Judgment: Emerald Meats v. Minister for Agriculture