Judge withdraws from hearing Gayle Dunne appeal
The court will have to be reconstituted, with the case adjourned until the new year
Gayle Dunne, who is seeking to overturn a High Court decision refusing to allow her cross examine a lawyer acting for the Chapter Seven trustee dealing with Seán Dunne’s bankruptcy in the US. He was declared bankrupt in the US and Ireland in 2013.
An appeal by the wife of developer Seán Dunne related to his bankruptcy was adjourned when a presiding judge recused himself from the case over what he said may be a perceived conflict.
Mr Justice Seán Ryan, president of the Court of Appeal, said he had bought a house from Mr Dunne’s firm and had once met the man, but while he initially thought that should not be a problem for the parties in the case, he had thought again about it over lunch and decided he should recuse himself.
He wanted to remove himself from the case being brought by Gayle Dunne because it was possible “somebody might say I am surprised he did not recuse himself”.
The appeal had been heard for less than a half an hour by Mr Justice Ryan, Ms Justice Máire Whelan and Mr Justice Michael Twomey when, as the court was about to break for lunch, Mr Justice Ryan said he wanted to mention to the parties that he once bought a house from Mr Dunne’s firm Mountbrook and also met the man once.
Counsel for both sides agreed with him there would not be any problem with that.
When the case resumed, Mr Justice Ryan said he had realised there was something “that went back over 20 years” and might give rise to a reasonable enough perception or possible perception of a conflict.
There was “nothing terribly sinister” but it was something that had slipped his mind and he would prefer to recuse himself.
That meant the court would have to be reconstituted and he adjourned the case for that purpose to the new year.
In the appeal, Ms Dunne is seeking to overturn a High Court decision refusing to allow her cross-examine a lawyer acting for the Chapter Seven trustee dealing with Mr Dunne’s bankruptcy in the US. He was declared bankrupt in both the US and Ireland in 2013.
The application was opposed by Irish bankruptcy official Chris Lehane. In February last year, the High Court found the cross-examination of the US lawyer was not necessary.
The appeal also relates to an application to dismiss proceedings by Mr Lehane related to agreements between Mr and Mrs Dunne in 2005 and 2008 to transfer interests to her and her children in a number of assets, including a hotel called Lagoon Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as properties in Dublin and Wicklow.
It is claimed those proceedings are unfair because they cover the same ground as proceedings in the US.
Mr Lehane disputes her claims.