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Written judgments are widely perceived to be boring, inaccessible and difficult to understand. If one was to hazard a guess, such a presumption originates from the fact that they are filled with all types of legalese and jargon, which are inherently tough to understand to those who don’t study or practise law. Indeed, some judges have begun including “plain English” sections at the end of their judgments as documented recently on Decisis here and here (for example, see ABC v Minister For Foreign Affairs and Trade  IEHC 785 (Barrett J)).
However, written judgments are home to a wide spectrum of great opening and closing paragraphs which can range from being over the top to heart-warming. This two-part article will endeavour to display a taste of these passages in Ireland. It is worth beginning by sharing this honourable mention from the English Upper Tribunal Administrative Appeals Chamber in AF v SSWP (DLA) (No.2)  UKUT 366 (AAC) where Wikeley J humorously began his judgment by announcing “Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear” and closed it by stating “I hope I do not see this case again”.
The Quintessential Opening Paragraph
A game of rounders in the sports hall of a convent school in Glasnevin gave rise to this classic opening paragraph by Mr Justice Budd in Kane v Kennedy (Unreported, High Court, 25th March 1999):
“The news of the death of Joe DiMaggio came while I was writing this judgment. His record streak in 1941, when he got a hit in fifty six consecutive games, still stands. His grace at the plate and his defensive qualities at centre field, his leadership of the New York Yankees to victory in nine of the ten world series in which he led them, and above all his gentlemanly conduct made him a legend in his own lifetime. I wonder what he would have made of the problems with which I have been confronted in resolving the conflicts of evidence presented by what followed the strike by Alice Dunne during the game of rounders played in the sports hall of a convent school in Glasnevin on the morning of Tuesday 21st May, 1996.”
An additional favourite opening paragraph arises from Chief Justice O’Higgins in Vone Securities Ltd v Cooke  IR 59 where the Supreme Court had to consider whether the words “six months” in the impugned option clause of the lease was to mean six lunar months or six calendar months:
“[A]t common law the ordinary primary meaning of month, when used in instruments such as leases, was and is lunar month. This meaning is taken to be intended by the parties to any such instrument unless that instrument when read as a whole, or the surrounding contemporaneous circumstances, show that the other, or secondary, meaning of calendar month was intended. It will, no doubt, surprise many people to learn that a rule as archaic as this one surely is, and so far removed from the needs and uses of modern society, should still be part of our law. Even in the days of Charles Dickens, the rule was probably sufficiently out of date to justify Mr. Bumble's description of the law. To-day its continued existence as a rule of the common law is opposed to all common sense and indicates how much remains to be done by way of reform to bring the common law up to date.
Having stated this common law rule, Mr. Justice Costello came to the conclusion that there was nothing in the context of this lease, or in the surrounding contemporaneous circumstances, to exclude the primary meaning. In my view he was wrong.”
It is not often that written judgments produce such relatable and awe-inducing paragraphs. Mr Justice O’Moore in Foot Locker Retail Ireland Lot v Percy Nominees Let  IEHC 749 certainly provides such a paragraph:
“It was once widely believed that every adult citizen of the United States could remember where they were and what they were doing at the time that they were told of the assassination of President Kennedy. A similar phenomenon of collective memory may not have been triggered by the announcement in Washington D.C. by An Taoiseach, in March 2020, of the dramatic steps needed to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland but the unprecedented nature of these measures, and the speed with which they were introduced, will be remembered by most, if not all, of those affected by them.”
Furthermore, Mr Justice Hedigan’s judgment in Chesnokov v an tÁrd-Chláraitheoir  IEHC 497 provided a stark piece of context to his decision to set aside the respondent registration authority’s refusal to register the appellant’s birth in Ireland.
“In order to resolve this matter, it is necessary to consider the context of time and place. It was a time when the world seemed turned upside down. Vast armies swept across international boundaries bringing war, destruction and death on a scale almost unimaginable to the mind of Western Europeans today. Less than nine months after the birth of the appellant, the army of Nazi Germany turned from its conquests in the West and invaded the Soviet Union itself. It brought to that country a tidal wave of savagery, destruction, and death equally unimaginable to us today.”
This sample of opening and closing paragraphs displays the extent to which a judge’s personality can seep into a judgment. These exhibits certainly show that judges have an affinity for inserting their own flare into the judgments they write. Additionally, they are full of wit and character as seen by this departing quote from Mr Justice Sanfey in Connors v Kinsella & Ors  IEHC 791:
“2. At the conclusion of the substantive judgment, I invited ‘brief written submissions’ in this regard. The submissions I received were most certainly not ‘brief’”.