Judge overturns ruling against Workers' Party

 

A High Court judge yesterday overturned a decision by one of the court's taxing masters to award no costs to the Workers' Party for work involved in producing documents for a libel action taken by its former leader Mr Proinsias De Rossa against Independent Newspapers.

Upholding an appeal by the WP against taxing master Mr James Flynn's decision, Mr Justice Geoghegan found it was unjust. He said members of the WP could not reasonably be satisfied that they had had an unbiased hearing having regard to the "very unusual comments" contained in Mr Flynn's ruling.

Such comments were hardly warranted on the evidence before Mr Flynn and were, to a large extent, irrelevant, the judge said. He remitted the matter for consideration by taxing master Mr Charles Moran. The judge added the WP appeared to have contributed to some extent by submitting a wholly excessive claim. The claim for what Mr Justice Geoghegan described as "very substantial" costs involved a charge by the WP for the services of its general secretary, Mr Patrick Quearney, and other senior members and officers of the party in connection with preparation of discovery for the libel action.

The taxing master "in a forthright ruling" dismissed this claim in its entirety and did so again "in a more prosaic second ruling" after objections were taken, Mr Justice Geoghegan said.

His clear impression from Mr Flynn's first ruling was that he was "understandably exasperated" at what he saw as a wholly exaggerated claim put forward for the most part on behalf of individual members or officers of the WP.

"But in so far as he made a nil assessment, I think he was wrong. If I am right in my view that such an extreme finding was wrong it was, by definition, also unjust."

In sending the matter back, Mr Justice Geoghegan said he was satisfied the fresh taxation should be done by taxing master Mr Charles Moran.

"I say this without casting any aspersions on Mr Flynn but, unfortunately, many of the colourful remarks contained in his first ruling would not give any confidence to the WP that there would be an unbiased assessment."

This did not mean that he was in any way suggesting actual bias. What he was talking about was what was well known to all lawyers as apparent bias.