Challenge of Leaving Certificate Results before the High Court

If you are a Leaving Certificate student whose grades have been downgraded by the Department of Education, you could be entitled to take a legal challenge by way of an application for Judicial Review before the High Court.

On 15th September, the first challenge was brought before the High Court. The case concerns a student whose grades were downgraded from the predictive grades that the student had been awarded by her teachers. As a result of the downgrading of her Leaving Certificate grades, the student narrowly missed out on her place to study medicine by two points. Mr. Justice Meenan has adjourned the application for one week in order to put the State on notice of the application and it is anticipated that the case will be heard on an accelerated basis.

Many students are in a similar position. In fact many students received their third level place but they are still left in a position where the student’s predictive grades awarded by their teachers have been downgraded by the Department of Education by using a standardisation process. That effectively means that their Leaving Certificate does not reflect the grades initially awarded and students are left with a lesser academic record as a result.

Sinnott Solicitors have taken many successful judicial review applications against the State of over the past number of years. We are experienced in assessing any potential application for Judicial review and we have a well established reputation for taking successful Judicial Review applications. We brief the top Judicial Review Counsel in Ireland in order to take these cases.

We have received numerous queries from Leaving Certificate students and their parents over the past number of weeks are we are currently in the process of preparing judicial review applications for those students affected.

If you have any queries do not hesitate to contact us today on 00353 1 406 2862 or info@sinnott.ie.

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Assessment of Leaving Certificate candidates a Legal challenge

In order for us to assess the merits of each case, it is necessary for us to obtain very specific instructions, proof of the predictive grades awarded, examination of the grade awarded and the likely implications of the downgrading for the student.

Costs of challenging Leaving Certificate grades before the High Court

If an applicant for Judicial Review is successful, then the costs of the judicial review application are generally borne by the State.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to get in touch on 00353 1 406 2862 or info@sinnott.ie.

Contact Sinnott Solicitors Today! We have Leaving Cert Solicitors specialising in Leaving Cert legal challenges, Leaving Cert legal advice & all Leaving Cert legal action.

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How judicial review works

For a detailed analysis of how Judicial Review works please see the following:

  1. What is Judicial Review
  2. Against whom can a judicial review be brought
  3. Time Limits for judicial review applications
  4. How do Judicial Review Proceedings work
  5. Typical grounds for judicial review
  6. What happens after the grant of Judicial Review
  7. Examples of where Judicial Review Applications are taken in Immigration matters

Sinnott Solicitors have a highly specialised team of solicitors in Ireland with extensive experience in acting for clients seeking to bring Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court.

Sinnott Solicitors have taken so many Successful Judicial Review applications for our clients over the years that it would be impossible to list of all of those cases here. Sinnott Solicitors have developed an excellent reputation for taking high profile complex Judicial Review matters before the High Court concerning matters of exceptional public importance in the areas asylum and Immigration, Planning law, Garda compensation mattes, challenges to decisions of public bodies, local authorities and administrative bodies where there exists no appeal or an appeal mechanism on a specific point of law to the High Court such as in Student Grant cases. We have brought judicial review cases before the High Court and continued to litigate those cases before the Court of Appeal, The Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice.

What is Judicial Review?

Public decisions may be judicially reviewed by the High Court to determine whether they are unconstitutional or illegal. Judicial review is a legal mechanism which enables persons (including legal persons) to challenge the decisions of public bodies or the omissions of such bodies. Unless some other procedure is specified as applicable where a person is aggrieved by a decision or omission of such a body, judicial review is the appropriate remedy, even if it is not expressly mentioned in the legislation governing the body concerned.

A person who feels that a decision of a public authority, such as a government minister, the District or Circuit Court, a semi-state body, the local council or a statutory tribunal has violated his or her rights, may apply to the High Court for judicial review of the decision.

In looking at the decision the courts are principally concerned about the manner in which the decision-making person or body has exercised the relevant power in making the decision rather than the merits of the decision itself. It is not an appeal process and the court does not substitute its opinion for that of the public authority.

The High Court is concerned with how the decision was made and the fairness of it rather than whether it was the correct decision to begin with. The court is predominately concerned with whether all relevant considerations were taken into account, whether there was any evidence of deceit, fraud or bad faith or whether the body make the decision had the legal capacity to do so.

In order to bring Judicial Review Proceedings an application is made to the High Court, without notice to the decision making body requesting the court for leave (permission) to challenge the relevant decision.

The application must set out the applicable issues and the applicant bears a high onus to disclose all relevant facts at this point. An application for leave must be made promptly and in any event within the time limits set out below unless the Court considers there is good reason for granting an extension.

In the event that leave is granted, the proceedings are served on the relevant public body and they are given an opportunity to defend the matter. The case will be decided on the basis of written evidence and generally no oral evidence is submitted. The outcome of successful Judicial Review Proceedings is that the relevant decision is set aside.

If you have any queries or need more information contact us today on 00353 1 406 2862 or info@sinnott.ie.

Against whom can judicial review be sought?

Judicial review proceedings can be brought against any person or body exercising a public function. Generally speaking that person or body is set up under legislation empowering the person or body with the statutory function of making the decision in the first place.

Only the High Court, and, on appeal, the Supreme Court, have jurisdiction to entertain judicial review proceedings. Judicial review is not a remedy against those courts. The decisions of those courts can only be challenged to a Higher court.
A person may, in certain circumstance take judicial review proceedings against private bodies if those bodies are carrying out public functions. For example, judicial review proceedings were issued against the Irish Coursing Club Limited, a private limited company, in circumstances where that company had been given certain statutory functions under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958.

Time Limits for Judicial Review Applications  

Following a recent amendment, the applicable rules of court now state that such proceedings must be commenced within 3 months from the date when grounds for the application first arose. Time Limits within which to take judicial review proceedings of other matters are as follows:

General Matters including:

Leaving Certificate challenges: 3 months
Immigration cases: 14 days from the date of the decision
Planning Decisions: 8 weeks
Awarding of Public Contracts: 30 Days

Extension of time for taking Judicial Review cases

In exceptional circumstances, the time limit  can be extended by the court if it considers that there is good and sufficient reason to do so.

Delayed applications will normally be refused, and, indeed, some cases brought within the time limit may still be dismissed if the applicant’s delay has caused or is likely to cause prejudice to a respondent or third party.

How do judicial review proceedings work?

Judicial review is a two-stage process. In the first instance, an application for  “leave”  must be made within the prescribed time limits, as set out above.

The applicant must prepare court documents and set out in some detail what relief he is seeking, and on what grounds, and must go on to support his application with sufficient written and sworn evidence (in the form of an “affidavit”) from one or more persons, as relevant to the case.

The must then appear before the court and apply for leave on the basis of the papers that Counsel and Solicitors have prepared on the Applicants behalf. Apart from certain exceptions, this is done without notice to the intended respondent, and without the participation of such respondent. This is called “upon and ex parte basis “ which means without notice to the other side.

The court may partially or wholly grant the leave sought, and may do so on some or all of the grounds put forward. If leave is granted, whether wholly or partly, because the case is “arguable”, the court documents (including the affidavits) will be served upon the opposing party or parties, and they will have an opportunity to file papers in opposition, including affidavits in reply.

In the case of certain restrictive types of judicial review the application for leave must also be made on notice to the respondent, and leave will not be given unless there are “substantial grounds”, rather than just an “arguable case.”

Once the exchange of affidavits is complete, and any other matters arising in the case have been dealt with, the case will be assigned a hearing date. The matter will then proceed to a full hearing, but usually without oral evidence being given by witnesses (as their evidence will have been given on affidavit). The parties’ legal representatives will draw the attention of the court to the relevant portions of the affidavits and the documents appended to them, and make arguments and submissions based on these, and on the applicable law.

Is there an appeal against the High Court’s decision?

Unless there is some statutory restriction on an appeal from the High Court decision to the Supreme Court in any particular case, any decision of the High Court on a judicial review may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Typical grounds for judicial review

  • Breach of Natural and Constitutional Justice – ‘the rule against bias’, and the requirement to ‘hear the other side’;
  • Reasonableness – Did the public authority abuse its jurisdiction? Does their decision offend against fundamental reason and common sense?
  • Legitimate Expectation of receiving a benefit or privilege which arises either from an express promise given on behalf of a public authority or the existence of a regular practice which an individual can reasonable expect to continue.
  • Proportionality – Are restrictions imposed by legislation in the context of constitutional rights disproportionate and therefore invalid?

What happens after the grant of Judicial Review

If the application for judicial review is successful, there are a number of discretionary remedies: 

  • Certiorari – the Court may set aside (quash) the unlawful act
  • Prohibition – the Court prohibits the public authority from acting unlawfully
  • Mandamus – the Court compels the public authority to perform a legal duty of a public nature
  • Damages– The Court may award damages to an applicant if the Court if of the opinion that an award of damages to the applicant is an appropriate additional remedy
  • Costs – At the determination of the Judicial Review Proceedings, the Court will decide whether the applicant is entitled to his/her legal costs.

Examples of where Judicial Review Applications are taken

Sinnott Solicitors have taken so many Judicial Review Applications over the years that it would be impossible to cite them all but below are some examples of the successful judicial review applications that our clients have brought before the High Court. We have brought judicial review cases before the High Court and continued to litigate those cases before the Court of Appeal, The Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice.

  • Citizenship / Naturalisation cases – Judicial Review

Many of our client’s awaiting a decision for citizenship for an excessive period of time have had their applications finalised by bringing judicial review proceedings. Also many of our client’s whose applications for Citizenship/ Naturalisation  were unlawfully refused by the Minister have had those decisions overturned by the High Court.

  • Family Reunification – Judicial Review

The High Court granted our client An order of certiorari quashing the decision of the Minister under Regulation 25(4) of the European Union (Subsidiary Protection) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 426 of 2013) refusing the applicant’s application for permission to be granted to his family members to enter and reside in the State. Many of our clients have brought successful judicial review applications in the area of family reunification

  • EU Treaty Rights cases – Judicial Review

Many of our client’s awaiting a decision for a permanent residence card or a Review for an excessive period of time have had their applications finalised by bringing judicial review proceeding. Many of our client’s whose applications for Residence Cards, review applications and Retention of residence card applications were unlawfully refused by the Minister have had those decisions overturned by the High Court

  • Visa Refusals -Judicial Review

Many of our client’s awaiting a decision for a Visa long stay or short for an excessive period of time have had their applications finalised by bringing judicial review proceeding. Many of our client’s whose Visa Appeals were unlawfully refused by the Minister have had those decisions overturned by the High Court.

  • International protection refusals – Judicial Review

Many of our client’s awaiting a decision for International Protection for an excessive period of time have had their applications finalised by bringing judicial review proceeding. Also many of our client’s whose applications for International protection  were unlawfully refused by the Minister have had those decisions overturned by the High Court. 

  • Employment Permit Refusals – Judicial Review

Many of our client’s whose applications for International protection  were unlawfully refused by the Minister have had those decisions overturned by the High Court.

If you have any queries regarding a decision that you have received or expect to receive where Judicial Review may be an appropriate remedy, please feel free to contact Sinnott Solicitors at info@sinnott.ie or at 014062962 and one of our Leaving Cert Solicitors will be happy to speak with you.

Contact Sinnott Solicitors Today

We have Leaving Cert Solicitors specialising in Leaving Cert legal challenges, Leaving Cert legal advice & all Leaving Cert legal action.

Schedule a Callback