Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (426)

Michael McGrath

Question:

426. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her approval has been sought or is required for the appointment of an additional taxing master; if she satisfied with the current volume of case work being undertaken by the taxing masters; her plans to overhaul the current system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24693/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy may be aware, taxing masters are independent office holders attached to the High Court and are appointed by the Government. The positions of the Taxing Master and their offices are governed by the Courts Officers Act 1926 and the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961. Their powers and duties are governed by the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 and the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995. There are currently two Taxing Masters who perform functions of a judicial nature in respect of legal costs with the aim of establishing a fair relationship between the services rendered and the cost of those services.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have made inquiries and the Courts Service has informed me that statistics in relation to the taxation of costs in the High Court are published in the Courts Service Annual Report, see details set out in the following table.

Year

Summonses Issued

Certificates Issued

2013

1350

345

2012

1221

367

2011

1820

796

The taxing masters also deliver written and oral rulings in relation to their adjudications.

I am informed that the waiting time for a date for the taxation of costs at present is 10 weeks from the date of issue of a notice of taxation. The Courts Service has indicated that the volume of work being dealt with by the Taxing Masters is such that delays can occur in delivery of considered rulings, particularly in the more difficult cases.

The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed Committee Stage in the Dáil and and in respect of which I expect Report Stage to be completed in the current session, provides for the establishment of a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators to replace the Taxing-Masters' Office. The new Office, headed by a Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator, will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated upon, with greater transparency. The determinations of the Adjudicators will be guided by Legal Costs Principles. A publicly accessible Register of Determinations, which will include the outcomes and reasons for determinations about disputed legal costs, will be established and maintained. I am considering further amendments in relation to the management and efficiency of the operation of the Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator under the Bill that I hope to bring forward for Report Stage. The appointment of an additional Taxing-Master does not arise as the necessary reforms are already under way.