Insolvency Update: Lay Litigants and McKenzie Friends – The Courts’ Tolerance Continues to Dwindle

11 December 2017

Further to our Insolvency Update issued 11 October 2017, another recent High Court judgment has clearly demonstrated the courts’ increased lack of tolerance for litigants whose primary or sole objective is to obstruct the administration of justice.

In late November 2017, the High Court delivered judgment in Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank v James Martin & Deirdre Martin. In doing so, it made an order prohibiting the defendants’ son from advocating on behalf of the defendants, either on foot of a power of attorney or in the guise of a McKenzie Friend.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Noonan expressed serious concern at the growing trend of litigants in person. In particular, he focused on those assisted by agenda-driven pressure groups and individuals providing paid McKenzie friend services who deliberately waste court time and attempt to obstruct the administration of justice.

The court identified a number of disruptive tactics which were employed in this case including:

  • filing of affidavits with numerous references to the “alleged court”, “original wet ink documents” and numerous quasi-legal concepts unconnected to the facts arising in the case
  • swearing of affidavits unconfined to facts within the deponent’s means of knowledge and drafted by third parties
  • baseless allegations being made against the court and opposing parties legal advisors
  • requests that documents be “read into the record
  • engaging of legal advisors for the first time shortly before the hearing date for the sole purpose of delay

In a judgment that will be welcomed by all genuine litigants with genuine claims, the court concluded that:

The exponential increase in this category of litigant is now at a level where it presents a very serious challenge to the Irish courts system, already overburdened with an ever increasing case load of genuine cases. It seems to me that the time is now well past when the courts should indulge and tolerate the mode of litigation that this case typifies engendered solely for the purpose of an anarchic attempt to frustrate and obstruct the administration of justice.

For more information, contact a member of our Insolvency & Restructuring team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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