The Government has approved the adoption of a set of 15 State Litigation Principles (the "Principles") that are intended to codify and explain the existing best practice for the State to adhere to when conducting litigation to ensure that existing high standards are maintained. The Principles will sit alongside the framework provided for in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, which is designed to ensure that both commercial and non-commercial State bodies meet the highest standards of corporate governance.
The Principles, which will apply where the State (either through the Government, a Minister of the Government, a Department of State or an agency under its direct control) engages in litigation, are as follows:
- Avoid legal proceedings where possible
- Deal with claims promptly
- Deal with litigation efficiently
- Identify lead cases when multiple sets of proceedings on same legal issue
- Minimise legal costs for all parties
- Make settlement offers, tenders or lodgements
- Act honestly
- Make discovery in compliance with best practice
- Be consistent across claims
- Not to take advantage of the less well-resourced litigant
- Defend proceedings in accordance with the interests of justice
- Not to appeal unless there is a reasonable prospect of success or in the public interest
- Avoid bringing proceedings against another State Department or State body
- Seek to agree claimant’s costs without the requirement for formal adjudication
- Apologise where the State has acted unlawfully
In a Press Release published earlier this week (on 21 June 2023), the Department of the Taoiseach stated:
"The Principles may best be described as a codification and public statement of existing best practice. Quite simply, the State should act in the public interest, broadly construed, in pursuing litigation and should consider this broader public interest before taking certain procedural steps in litigation."
Further details of the Principles can be found here.
If you have any queries relating to these Principles, please reach out to a member of our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution team or your usual Matheson contact.
Authors: Angela Brennan, Michael Byrne, Brendan Colgan, Deirdre Crowley, Sharon Daly, Nicola Dunleavy, Kevin Gahan, Aisling Kavanagh, April McClements, Julie Murphy-O'Connor, Tony O'Grady, Karen Reynolds.