Lawyers eagerly await the outcome of the Mitchell case, which could take a tough stance on breaches of court rules.
In the Gazette’s recent roundup of what lawyers and other players in the legal industry have made of the Jackson reforms so far, it was clear that what has stood out for many has been the tough stance taken by the bench to any breach of court rules and orders.
It is not surprising that this has made a massive impression on lawyers, given that they will be the ones in the frame if a deadline is missed or a document isn’t filed. No doubt many firms are reviewing their processes with some sense of urgency.
The case that the profession is waiting on is, of course, is the Mitchell case, which has been fast-tracked to the Court of Appeal so that the senior judiciary can hand the lower courts some necessary guidance on just how rigid an approach they should be taking.
The claimant lawyers in Mitchell were heavily penalised for failing to file their costs budget on time, with their costs reduced to court fees alone, and relief from sanctions denied.
Every Jackson-related appeal will feature at least one from a panel of five particular judges, to lend these decisions consistency. In Mitchell, I gather that it will be the master of the rolls Lord Dyson himself - who selected the panel of five - who will be sitting, along with two other judges; and I am told that it has been listed for 7 November (apparently the appeal was initially listed for January, but Dyson felt it was important to have it heard sooner – quite rightly).
Once the appeal is heard, one imagines that the CA judges will not take long before giving judgment. Many commentators believe a hardline approach is inevitable. Let’s hope the Court of Appeal doesn’t ruin Christmas for the profession.
Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine