The Court System in Ireland: How Does it Work?

The Irish legal system is designed to work for citizens and to provide a clear framework for the process by which justice is dispensed.  It revolves around eight courts, established by the Constitution. The following courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters:

  •  District Court
    •    Circuit Court
    •    High Court
    •    Court of Civil Appeal
    •    Supreme Court

And the other three courts apply only to criminal matters. These are the:

  •  Special Criminal Court
    •    Central Criminal Court
    •    Court of Criminal Appeal


The court that deals with your case will be determined usually by the likely of level of financial redress which you can expect to recover. It’s a good idea to meet with a solicitor, such as the experts at S.T. O’Sullivan & Co Solicitors, in order to have your case reviewed and decide which court is the most appropriate for your situation. The process of a court case can be quite involved.  It can be stressful but a good solicitor will support and protect you and guide you through each step of the process.


Here’s a quick guide to the jurisdiction and role of each of the civil courts within the Irish system:

  •  The District Court:The District Court is the most recognisable of the Courts for most people. It is comprised of sixty-four judges who are assigned to Ireland’s twenty-three court districts. The District Court deals with civil and criminal cases (usually the less serious offences such as minor assaults and road traffic offences), licensing of restaurants and bars, some family law applications (relating to maintenance, custody, access and domestic violence only), applications to amend birth and marriage certificates, applications for orders made under the Environmental Protection Act 1992 in connection with noise reduction, and all issues relating to the Control of Dogs Act. Civil claims (such as for breach of contract, debt recovery, personal injury or property damage claims) up to a value of €15,000.00.
  •  The Circuit Court:  There are eight circuits in Ireland, with one judge assigned permanently to each circuit, excluding Dublin, where there may be up to ten judges, and Cork, where there are three. The Circuit Court hears many civil matters, which are dealt with by a judge without a jury, and also deals with property damage claims up to €75,000.00 and personal injury cases up to €60,000.00.  The Circuit Court also oversees a wide range of family law matters including judicial separation, divorce and nullity, within define limits.  It also acts as an appeal court for cases which have been heard in the District Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
  •  The High Court: The High Court, based in Dublin, is comprised of the President of the High Court and thirty-six judges. The High Court deals with all civil or criminal matters not dealt with by the district or circuit courts. Civil cases are usually heard by a judge only in the High Court, although defamation cases can be heard by a jury.  There is also a division of the High Court which sits in various provincial locations at certain times of the year, usually dealing with personal injury and fatal injury cases, as well as hearing appeals from the Circuit Courts in civil and family cases.
  •  Court of Civil Appeal:  This was set up in 2014 to ease the backlog of civil appeals to the Supreme Court.  It deals with the great majority of civil appeals from the High Court.
  •  The Supreme Court:  The Supreme Court is based at the Four Courts in Dublin and is presided over by the Chief Justice and nine judges.  It is a court of final appeal. The Supreme Court also hears appeals from the lower courts in cases where there are important points of law to be decided.  The Supreme Court may also be asked by the President to review Bills passed by the Dàil before they are signed into law by him and in order to assess whether there Bills are constitutional.  Usually, the Supreme Court deals with cases based on a transcript of the evidence given at the original trial of the action.

How to Proceed with your case

If you feel that you may be entitled to bring a case as a result of an injury sustained due to the negligence of a medical professional or due to a personal injury that was not your fault, it is important to consult with a solicitor experienced in these areas of law.

At S.T. O’Sullivan & Co Solicitors, we have 35 year’s experience in dealing with claims of this type and are sensitive to the burden that such litigation places on the claimant. This is why we take the time to understand the impact such injuries have on our client’s everyday life and wellbeing.


S.T. O’Sullivan & Co Solicitors, 6, Bindon Street, Ennis, Co.Clare.

Telephone: 065 – 6820620. Email:

We guarantee to return calls within one business day.

None of the statements contained above are intended to constitute (and do not constitute) legal advice.  Neither are they an exhaustive or definitive statement of the law relating to any of the particular topics referred to.  No liability whatsoever is accepted by S.T. O’Sullivan & Co. in relation to any of the comments or statements made on this website.