Judges of the Circuit Court
The Circuit Court consists of the President and thirty seven ordinary judges. The President of the District Court is, by virtue of their office, an additional judge of the Circuit Court. The country is divided into eight circuits with one judge assigned to each circuit except in Dublin where ten judges may be assigned, and Cork, where there is provision for three judges. There are twenty-six Circuit Court offices throughout Ireland with a County Registrar in charge of the work of each office. The Circuit Court is a court of limited and local jurisdiction. The work can be divided into four main areas: civil, criminal, family law and jury service. The Circuit Court sits in venues in each circuit. Sittings vary in length from one day to three weeks and are generally held every 2 to 4 months in each venue in the circuit. Dublin and Cork have continual sittings throughout each legal term.
The civil jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is a limited one unless all parties to an action consent, in which event the jurisdiction is unlimited. The limit of the court's jurisdiction relates mainly to actions where the claim does not exceed €38,092.14 and the rateable valuation of land does not exceed €253.95.
The Circuit and High Court have concurrent jurisdiction in the area of Family Law. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction in a wide range of family law proceedings, (judicial separation, divorce, nullity and appeals from the District Court). In hearing such cases, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction to make related orders, including custody and access orders, maintenance and barring orders. Applications for protection and barring orders may also be made directly to the Circuit Court. Applications to dispense with the three month notice period of marriage are also dealt with by the Circuit Court.
In criminal matters the Circuit Court has the same jurisdiction as the Central Criminal Court in all indictable offences except murder, rape, aggravated sexual assault, treason, piracy and related offences. This jurisdiction is exercisable in the area where the offence has been committed or where the accused person has been arrested or resides. However in Circuit Courts outside Dublin, the trial judge may transfer a trial to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on application by the prosecution or the defence and if satisfied that it would be unjust not to do so. Criminal cases dealt with by the Circuit Criminal Court begin in the District Court and are sent forward to the Circuit Court for trial or sentencing. Where a person is sent forward to the Circuit Criminal Court for trial the case is heard by judge and jury although a person can change their plea to guilty and dispense with a trial. Indictable offences of a minor nature are heard in the District Court where the accused person consents.
Responsibility for jury selection for the Circuit Criminal Courts rests with the County Registrar in each of the twenty-six counties. Juries for the Central Criminal Court and the High Court are called in Dublin. The Jury Office attached to the Dublin Circuit Court Office is responsible for calling juries for the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court and certain civil actions, such as defamation, assault and false imprisonment in the High Court.
Appeals from the District Court
Decisions of the District Court can be appealed to the Circuit Court with some exceptions. Appeals proceed by way of a full rehearing and the decision of the Circuit Court is final.
The Circuit Court also acts as an appeal court for appeals from the decisions of the Labour Court, Unfair Dismissals Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal.This page updated: 1 February 2012