Retiring Justice Kevin Cross warns on ‘battalions with deep pockets’

After decade handling personal injuries list, judge strikes cautionary note on recent and proposed changes

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the practice of having pre-trial motions, motions for discovery and written submissions can be good in cases where everyone has deep pockets. But they can have serious negative effects in ordinary cases.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the practice of having pre-trial motions, motions for discovery and written submissions can be good in cases where everyone has deep pockets. But they can have serious negative effects in ordinary cases.

 

A senior judge retiring after a decade handling the personal injuries list has said he fears recent and proposed changes in practice will have the effect of changing the system designed to get a case to the door of a court quickly with “a war of attrition” type scenario.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross warned the only winners in such a scenario are “battalions with deep pockets”.

The judge, who was speaking from the bench as tributes were made on his retirement, said the practice of having pre-trial motions, motions for discovery and written submissions can be good in cases where everyone has deep pockets. But, he said, they can have serious negative effects in ordinary cases.

The judge, who presided over the case of Ruth Morrissey and other cervical cancer actions, referred to a case involving a woman whose action included aspects of law, liability, causation and quantum within weeks of first going to a solicitor was in court. He said she succeeded to get her case on because of her courage and determination and that of her legal team. Her success was also due to the co-operation of the defendant legal teams in a system of trust, he said.

The scales of justice must be continually rebalanced and adapted in order to ensure they are back in equilibrium, he said. Left to their own accord, he said, the scales will invariably “tip in favour of the vested interests and big battalions”.

Retirement speech

The judge was first called to the Bar in 1975. In his retirement speech he paid tribute to his courts registrar Margaret Mulligan and his tipstaff Martin McCarthy, who had helped keep the personal injuries list running smoothly during the pandemic.

Tributes to the judge were, due to Covid-19 restrictions, heard by selected representatives of various legal bodies, judges and the judge’s family. It was also broadcasted via Zoom.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher said the judge will be long remembered for his judgment in the Ruth Morrissey cervical cancer case and the Russell case, which dealt with the real rate of return.

He said the judge had always displayed kindness, humanity and equity, and he treated all those before him with compassion.

He said the judge on retirement intends to do a PHD on Irish lawyer and statesman John Philpot Curran.

Tributes were also given in Court One of the Four Courts by the Bar Council and Law Society.