Permanent TSB v Langan: Limited jurisdiction in Art 34.3.4 can mean limited by value or by category of case

In Permanent TSB plc v Langan & Anor [2017] IESC 71, the Supreme Court held:

  1. Article 34.3.4 of the Constitution’s requirement that the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction must be limited can mean limited by value or limited by category of case.
  2. The Circuit Court cannot become a surrogate court of unlimited jurisdiction, but this case did not necessitate that the Court define that threshold.
  3. At the level of principle, “all domestic residential possession actions” is sufficiently limited for the Óireachtas to confer jurisdiction on the Circuit Court for all such actions, without limitation on the value of affected properties.
  4. S 22(1) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 Circuit Court, which limits jurisdiction to properties with a rateable value not exceeding €253.95, does not restrict jurisdiction on properties with no rateable valuation.
  5. A plaintiff must establish jurisdiction by demonstrating that the property has a rateable valuation not exceeding €253.95 or that the property has no rateable valuation.

 

Background

Langan fell into arrears in his mortgage to Permanent over six properties. Permanent issued Circuit Court proceedings seeking possession of the six properties. The civil bills stated that the annual rateable value for each of the properties is below €235,95. In February 2015, the Circuit Court granted orders for possession for all six properties. Lanigan appealed to the High Court.

Section 22 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 (here) limits Circuit Court jurisdiction to properties below a defined rateable charge (currently €235.95). S 15 of the Valuation Act 2001 made residential properties un-rateable.

(The Land and Conveyance Law Reform Act 2013 confers the Circuit Court with jurisdiction in possession proceedings for all  principle private residential (PPR) properties mortgaged after 1 December 2009. None of the properties in this case were Langan’s PPR).

In May 2015, the High Court delivered judgment in Bank of Ireland v Finnegan (here). Murphy J held that the Circuit Court does not have jurisdiction to determine cases relating to un-rateable properties. However, in November 2015, Noonan J, in the High Court, held that the Circuit Court does have jurisdiction in such cases, Bank of Ireland v Hanley (here).

When Langan’s case came to hearing, he added grounds that the Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction in his case due to the 2001 Act. As there were conflicting High Court judgments on the issue, Baker J made a case stated to the Court of Appeal. She submitted five questions:

(1) If a property is not rateable by virtue of the Valuation Act 2001, or otherwise, is the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction under s. 22(1) of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 excluded?

(2) In the alternative does the Circuit Court have jurisdiction by virtue of the property not having a rateable valuation that exceeds €253.95?

(3) Is the Circuit Court entitled to proceed to judgment, unless it is shown by evidence that there is a rateable valuation which exceeds €253.95?

(4) If there is no certificate of rateable valuation, how does the court exercise its power to estimate rateable valuation under s. 31 of the County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act 1877?

(5) Is the plea in a Civil Bill taken together with evidence on affidavit of a provisional estimate of rateable valuation, sufficient “legal evidence” on which the court can make an estimate rateable valuation for the purposes of s. 31 of the County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act 1877?

 

Court of Appeal

Hogan J (here) held that the Circuit Court does not have jurisdiction over properties that are un-rated.

Permanent sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

 

Supreme Court

Clarke CJ wrote the judgment for a unanimous five judge panel.

Allowing Permanent’s appeal, he held that the literal interpretation of the 1961 Act confers a general jurisdiction on the Circuit Court, subject to an exclusion that applies only to properties having a rateable valuation exceeding €235.95 [5.3].

That interpretation would permit the Circuit Court to accept cases without limitation on the value of un-rated properties. But Clarke CJ found that “[t]here is no reason in principle why this Court should lean in favour of an interpretation which increases the costs of litigants by requiring “small” cases to go to the High Court over one which might permit some “big” cases to be heard in the Circuit Court” [6.6].

Clarke CJ then examined whether there is a constitutional prohibition on the Óireachtas conferring such a broad jurisdiction on a court of local and limited jurisdiction. He held that there is no “constitutional difficulty” in limiting the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction by category of case instead of by the value of a claim (such as in the Land and Conveyance Law Reform Act 2013) . Possession actions for residential properties is not an overbroad category [7.12].

 

Full judgment of the Supreme Court here.

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Supreme Court refuses leave to appeal against Circuit Court injunction against entry of unrated property | SCOIRLBLOG

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