Litigants-in-person legal action a ‘major issue’, says Law Society

Irish judges becoming ‘extremely frustrated’ with ‘needless time wasting’

Legal actions being brought to Irish courts by litigants-in-person are becoming a "major and increasingly problematic issue", the Law Society of Ireland has said.

The Law Society said on Sunday that many Irish judges have become “extremely frustrated with the needless time wasting” of individuals or parties who are unrepresented by a solicitor or barrister or self-represented – known as litigants-in-person.

“We already have a court system that is bursting at the seams due to an insufficient number of judges and lack of investment in the court system which has been further exacerbated by unavoidable delays due to the pandemic,” a spokeswoman for the Law Society told the Irish Times.

“Court time is precious and many judges are extremely frustrated with needless time wasting.

“Instructing a solicitor will be of benefit to any litigant and the court system. It will inevitably speed up the proceedings which will ultimately result in lowers costs.”

The comments follow a warning from High Court Justice Nuala Butler that too much time is being taken up sifting through the cases of litigants-in-person.

Ms Justice Butler said there was “frequently an unwillingness” on the part of such litigants to accept any adverse ruling in actions they bring, according to a report in Sunday’s Business Post. Many of these cases are characterised by “dense, repetitive and prolix pleading” along with multiple applications and appeals, Ms Justice Butler was quoted as saying.

She added that causes of action were “rarely clearly identified or properly pleaded” and that the time it took to deal with many of their applications was often “completely disproportionate” to the importance of the case.

Many litigants-in-person cases come from people who cannot afford representation or do not qualify for legal aid. However, some choose to self-represent because they do not want a lawyer while others cannot find a lawyer willing to take on their case.

It was reported in this paper last year that up to 70 per cent of home repossession cases in the Circuit Court involve litigants in person and litigants in person also feature in about one third of appeals before the Court of Appeal.