Judge steps down from appeal case brought by wife of developer Sean Dunne

By Ann O'Loughlin

An appeal by the wife of developer Sean Dunne related to his bankruptcy was adjourned when a presiding judge recused himself from the case over what he said may be a perceived conflict.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan, president of the Court of Appeal, said he had bought a house from Mr Dunne's firm and had once met the man, but while he initially thought that should not be a problem for the parties in the case, he had thought again about it over lunch and decided he should recuse himself.

He wanted to remove himself from the case being brought by Gayle Dunne because it was possible "somebody might say I am surprised he did not recuse himself".

The appeal was being heard for less than a half an hour by Mr Justice Ryan, Ms Justice Maire Whelan and Mr Justice Michael Twomey when, as the court was about to break for lunch, Mr Justice Ryan said he wanted to mention to the parties that he had once bought a house from Mr Dunne's firm Mountbrook and also met the man once.

Counsel for both sides agreed with him there would not be any problem with that.

When the case resumed, Mr Justice Ryan said he had realised there was something "that went back over 20 years" and might give rise to a reasonable enough perception or possible perception of a conflict.

There was "nothing terribly sinister" but it was something that had slipped his mind and he would prefer to recuse himself.

That meant the court would have to be reconstituted and he adjourned the case for the purpose to the new year.

Gayle Dunne outside court today. Pic: Collins.

In the appeal, Ms Dunne is seeking to overturn a High Court decision refusing to allow her cross examine a lawyer acting for the "Chapter Seven" trustee dealing with Mr Dunne's bankruptcy in the US.

He was declared bankrupt in both the US and Ireland in 2013.

The application was opposed by the Irish banruptcy official, Chris Lehane. In February last year, the High Court found the cross-examination of the US lawyer was not necessary.

The appeal also relates to an application to dismiss proceedings by Mr Lehane related to agreements between Mr and Mrs Dunne in 2005 and 2008 to transfer interests to her and her children a number of assets - including a hotel called "Lagoon Beach" in Cape Town, South Africa as well as properties in Dublin and Wicklow.

It is claimed those proceedings are unfair because they cover the same grounds as proceedings in the US.

Mr Lehane disputes her claims.


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