Judge should not have raised family law case, inquiry finds
Circuit Court judge Desmond Hogan denies conversation with Mr Justice Henry Abbott was an attempt to influence outcome
Judge Desmond Hogan said he was not acting on a request from a politician or anyone else connected with the case. Photograph: Garrett White/Collins
A Circuit Court judge has claimed he had no intention of influencing the outcome of a family law case by raising it with a High Court colleague and denied acting on a request from a politician or anyone connected with the case.
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, and his counterpart on the Circuit Court, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, issued a statement last night after carrying out an “urgent” investigation into allegations of an improper approach to High Court judge Henry Abbott by a member of the Circuit Court bench.
Yard of Four Courts
The presidents concluded the Circuit Court judge, identified as Desmond Hogan, should not have raised the matter with Mr Justice Abbott, but said they were satisfied that a conversation between the two men in the yard of the Four Courts in 2010 had no influence on rulings in the case.
According to an account from Mr Justice Abbott, related in the statement, he encountered Judge Hogan in the yard of the Four Courts a few days after July 21st, 2010, the day on which he had delivered a ruling in a family law case. In the course of a “casual conversation”, Judge Hogan asked was it true that he had made a particular order in the case. The High Court judge “took exception” and dealt with it by saying the reasons for his decision would be detailed in a written judgment in due course. This was delivered on July 26th, 2011.
“The making of this inquiry to Judge Abbott was the subject of certain questions put by Judge Abbott of one of the parties during a later hearing on 15 February, 2013 and was subsequently referred to by Judge Abbott in his [separate] ruling on 12 July, 2013,” according to the statement.
‘A casual way’
Judge Hogan told the investigating judges that at this remove he was unable to recall the conversation or how he came by the information that a particular ruling had been made in July 2010. He would not dispute that he may have asked Mr Justice Abbott “in a casual way” about the case, but he was satisfied that he had “no solicitation or request to that end from any politician or from any party involved in or connected with the case in any way.”
Judge Hogan said there had been “absolutely no intention” of interfering with the case or influencing its outcome in any way, and he “deeply regrets” his query may have given rise to “any such apprehension”.
The two presidents said Judge Hogan should not have raised the matter. But they said they were “satisfied” the query could not have influenced the decision of July 2010, as it came after the ruling had been made. They were also satisfied that the conversation had no effect on the further ruling that came three years later.
Yesterday’s investigation followed a report in the Sunday Times that a Circuit Court judge had made an allegedly improper approach to a member of the High Court bench in a case about a dispute between parents about access to their child.
Mr Justice Abbott’s ruling in July has not been published.