Judge's lawyers accept €1m in fees


LAWYERS FOR former judge Brian Curtin have accepted a payment of just under €1 million in legal fees from the Oireachtas, nine months after they had returned the cheque because it was less than half what they demanded.

The final cost of the proceedings against the former Circuit Court judge are now estimated at €3 million, €1 million less than originally expected.

A meeting on Tuesday of the 11-member Houses of the Oireachtas Commission heard the Curtin legal team had accepted the reduced amount of €977,794.03 to meet the legal costs incurred at an impeachment inquiry into the then judge’s fitness to practise. After almost two years of negotiations when the lawyers initially refused the reduced payment which the Oireachtas issued “in full and final settlement”, they informed the commission they would accept the payment. An Oireachtas spokeswoman said yesterday the original sum sought by Mr Curtin’s lawyers could not be countenanced and there was a “certain satisfaction in knowing that the ultimate results was a saving of €1 million to the taxpayer”.

The protracted row over fees follows an impeachment inquiry by an Oireachtas committee after charges of possession of child pornography against the former Circuit Court judge were dropped in 2004. The case ended when a warrant to search his home was ruled out of date.

The government initiated impeachment proceedings and Mr Curtin challenged the constitutionality of the committee to investigate. In 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the inquiry could go ahead and the former judge was entitled to his costs, as is usual after a constitutional challenge.

Mr Curtin resigned in November that year on grounds of ill-health shortly before he was to appear before the committee, which decided not to proceed. The former judge never attended the Oireachtas committee hearings but his lawyers represented him at some 35 meetings of the inquiry.

His legal team then billed the Oireachtas for their representation at the inquiry. Mr Curtin was represented by Co Kerry solicitors Robert Pierse, senior counsel and former attorney general John Rogers, Paul Burns SC and barrister Cian Ferriter.

In January the public accounts committee was told the final cost could be up to €4 million. Some €1.2 million was paid for Mr Curtin’s court costs, a further €1 million was spent on the State’s legal costs and the judge’s legal team had sought additional fees of almost €2 million for co-operating with the investigation set up by the Dáil.

Following the Supreme Court judgment the commission felt obliged to pay fees, but because the State had already paid €1.2 million in legal costs, the commission believed much of the work was duplicated effort.

The lawyers for Mr Curtin could not be reached last night.