High Court: Enoch Burke fails to stay case management of proceedings, trial possible in April
The High Court has refused an application by Enoch Burke to stay the case management of High Court proceedings pending the determination of his appeals to the Court of Appeal. In October 2022, the court decided that it would case manage the High Court proceedings and made directions for the delivery of pleadings but no further directions had been made.
About this case:
- Citation: IEHC 41
- Court:High Court
- Judge:Mr Justice Brian O'Moore
Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore held that the case management of proceedings was entirely within the discretion of the court. The court noted that the Mr Burke’s appeals were due to take place in February 2023, while the earliest possible trial date for the present action would be April 2023.
It was also noted that Mr Burke’s appeals were against interlocutory orders, while the case management order related to the full substantive hearing of the action.
In October 2022, the High Court determined that it would case manage the proceedings taken against Mr Burke by the Board of Management of Wilson’s Hospital School. Mr Justice O’Moore made this decision because, at the time, Mr Burke was an employee of the school and this generally required expedition. Further, the dispute was causing disruption to students, there were ongoing interlocutory orders in place and, crucially, Mr Burke was in prison for contempt of court.
A further supporting reason was that there was a student at the centre of the dispute and long drawn out proceedings would be difficult for that person.
Mr Burke brought a motion seeking a stay on the case management of proceedings and seeking a stay on the High Court proceedings in general until his appeals against interlocutory orders were finalised.
Mr Burke’s main submissions supporting his stay application were that he had a strong case that his appeal would succeed and that he would be caused irreparable harm if the case proceeded before the Court of Appeal decisions. Mr Burke also stated that “there needs to be a trial of the judges” before the High Court action could proceed. It was said that the balance of convenience supported the grant of a stay.
Delivering his written judgment in the matter, Mr Justice O’Moore began by noting that Order 63C of the Superior Court Rules provided for case management of proceedings. Additionally, case management could be directed on the motion of the trial judge without regard to the parties and, accordingly, a judge had a wide discretion to case manage proceedings.
In dealing with the submissions raised by Mr Burke, the court held that Mr Burke did not raise sufficient reason to stay the proceedings or the case management order. On Mr Burke’s argument that he had a strong chance of success in his appeals, the court held that Mr Burke exclusively directed his submissions on the merits of the appeals to the High Court orders. As such, he failed to address the strength of his appeal against the decision to case manage the proceedings.
It was also held that the Court of Appeal hearings were set for 16 February 2023 and there was no chance that the High Court hearing would take place before then. Further, the submission that “there needs to be a trial of the judges” showed a “complete misunderstanding of the appeal process”, the court said.
The court reiterated that the claim that Mr Burke’s imprisonment normalised prejudice against religious belief was unstateable. Instead, Mr Justice O’Moore said that the “continuing defiance of court orders normalises such unacceptable and fundamentally antisocial behaviour, and his imprisonment is solely the result of his insistence on attending on private property when ordered not to do so”.
The court also pointed out that, even if the Court of Appeal held that the school did not have an arguable case, this would not dispose of the underlying action between the parties.
On the balance of convenience, the court held that this was overtaken by the fact that the Court of Appeal would hear the appeals in February. Even if this was not the case, the balance of convenience clearly supported an early trial as it would bring an end to the substantive dispute at a High Court level. The judgments in interlocutory orders would not have an effect on the full trial of the action.
Since Mr Burke had not established that the case management of the proceedings should be stayed, the court set out proposed directions on the exchange of witness statements, making discovery and legal submissions. The court held that, if the timetable was adhered to, the “trial can begin immediately after the Easter break, possibly as early as the 21st of April 2023”. The hearing would last six days.
The court refused to stay the case management of the High Court proceedings and provided proposed directions with a view to having the case heard by the end of April 2023.
The Board of Management of Wilson’s Hospital School v Burke  IEHC 41