Meet the Judges – 17 July 2013 – Notes
HMS introduced the meeting and its purpose. Format would broadly follow the agenda but wished it to be interactive to hear from practitioners, the judiciary and the court service to feed back as to how the new reforms are being implemented and any other issues that would be worthwhile raising with the court/Judges.
2. Jackson reforms – an overview by DJ Jordan
DJJ stated that parties are not filing the correct documents with directions questionnaires. Particular note needs to be taken with regard to transitional provisions. Judges being directed to take a firm approach with compliance and impose sanctions. Recent Venulum Property case  EWHC 1242 (TCC) reinforced Judges’ approach to imposing stricter time limits.
DJG stated that unless consent orders regarding directions demonstrated that the CPR had been complied with i.e. experts/disclosure they would not be approved, even where the parties had agreed them. Simply filing letters with ‘agreed’ consent orders would not guarantee the directions would be approved. DJG said that in most cases the court would require parties to attend the hearing, irrespective of whether there was agreement between the parties.
DJJ – relief from sanction applications only required where sanctions are applied to the original order. Judges were seeing common mistakes where practitioners who were not interpreting the rules properly. DJJ mentioned the Master of the Rolls Lecture of March 2013 that can be found at the following link:
He recommended that practitioners read it, so as to understand the cultural change.
Judges were asked how much training judges had received in relation to the new rules. DJJ confirmed full time Judges had received 1 days training. Deputy District Judges were yet to receive any training. It is hoped that training would mean consistency as to implementation of the rules.
Asked where there had been slippage in the directions timetable for example of a week how would this be dealt with? DJJ said that an application must be made where sanctions were attached to the directions.
Suggested that time should be built in between Judges making the orders and turn around by the court staff.
3. Court Users view/ Court perspective
Practitioners generally accepted that they now have to work with the new rules but still finding their way with proper compliance.
Found that Leeds court staff are usually helpful/polite. Acknowledged that they are under-resourced at the moment and a large number of members of staff down, although it was hoped numbers of court staff would improve over the next few months. It was noted that court staff cannot assist practitioners with enquiries relating to the Jackson reforms.
4. Paperwork and the use of a court bundle
Multiple filing of papers caused problems for the court staff i.e. same document faxed/emailed and hard copy in DX/post.
Agreed would be helpful to have a prescribed format for court bundles at the Judges’ direction. Sub Committee to be set up by Sue Harris to consider, in the first instance, the Pre Case Management Conference Order that the District Judges in Leeds Court have developed and an index for a CMC bundle.
It would assist the Court if more often one of the parties took carriage of orders after a hearing and there was a suggestion that routine issue of email addresses for judges would be useful when orders were being approved.
5. Urgent applications
Practitioners asked whether there would be demand for an urgent applications list, similar to that of the Chancery Division. Not necessarily a full day but a mechanism where parties could be heard by a Judge fairly quickly. Possibly 1 or 2 hours, rather than a full day. Court agreed something could consider listing if Judges and practitioners felt there was demand.
This means that one judge would be assigned to deal with the case at the outset and throughout the case. Practitioners agreed system worked well in practice.
DJJ stated that some Judges will deal with their own diary listing to ensure they are case managing those cases assigned to them. Docketing helped to ensure that the case was tried when it was ready, rather than when a court room was available.
Leeds Court now lists specialist cases with specific District Judges, for example for clinical negligence cases only four out of 10 of the District Judges will be assigned those types of cases. However, in personal injury cases any of the District Judges could be assigned the case. Consideration will be given to the experience of the District Judges and the need to build up that experience.
Deputy District Judges are unlikely to be asked to deal with Multi Track cases.
7. General discussion
Attendance at CMCs – if dealing with costs budgeting likely that if the costs budgets have not been agreed that this could be akin to a detailed assessment of costs at the beginning of proceedings, rather than following Judgment as is currently the case. Court confirmed CMC hearings listed for 1½ hours (1/2 hour reading – 1 hour hearing) so they will be fairly lengthy hearings. Will not be a separate hearing to deal with costs and directions – both dealt with at the same CMC. Parties should contact the Court if they consider that their case will need a longer time estimate for the cost and case management hearing. Telephone hearings will not be allowed for at least the initial costs and case management hearing.
Some suggested that there will be tactical budgeting. Contested CMCs will be a forensic analysis of the case not just costs, i.e. the costs will need to support/justify what steps are involved to progress the case to trial.
Judges commented that wouldn’t be surprised to have costs draftspersons/counsel at the CMC where budgets could not be agreed.
Discussion regarding forum shopping and whether parties would be better placed issuing cases in London. Judges disagreed and that cases can be heard more quickly in Leeds (dates that Leeds can supply for listing for trial were discussed and how these are significantly better than London). Feedback from London is that a firm approach with compliance will also be enforced.
There was a discussion about whether it might be possible to move away from trial windows. Release of dates can be allowed in cases where there are clashes but it is unlikely that the trial window system can be changed as things stand.
Judges confirmed firm approach taken against LiPs, as directed by recent cases. Although, mindful that where bundles etc need to be prepared if Defendants represented they should take on that task.
Other issues discussed included practitioners’ concerns about security queues, particularly for 10am hearings.
Also some practitioners found that they would get through security to discover that their case had been moved to Coverdale House without notice. Ideas were mooted such as details of cases being provided in the queuing area (i.e. before security) and for parties to check information about the Court lists, which are available free of charge on the internet from 3pm the day before a hearing. LLS will provide details of the service to the membership.
8. Feedback regarding this forum – was it useful, smaller groups, etc
Feedback was positive and people found the session useful. To report back to LLS regarding sub committee for those interested in being involved. LLS would send out an email from Sue Harris with more information.
Also discussed Court User Groups. Most were not aware of their existence or who to feedback to. It was noted that some of the user groups can be joined by invitation only. HHJ Gosnell mentioned the CPR surgery. General feedback and questions are needed at the forum and it was noted by HHJ Gosnell that firms should consider what level of fee earner is being sent to the meetings, as it would be preferable if it was those with direct experience of the issues being raised that attended.