I was disappointed to read that the president of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, is reported to have told Australian lawyers that he is one of a growing number of judges who read very little of the documents that are put before them pre-trial, on the basis that most are either irrelevant or are never referred to during the trial.
He has also admitted to ‘just skimming the skeleton arguments’. With respect to his lordship, I am not surprised at this revelation. I am one of a growing number of advocates who find that when they appear before the judiciary at interlocutory hearings and at trial, the question so frequently put – ‘Has Your Honour had the opportunity to read the papers?’ – is often met with an expression of regret.
Mention is made of the pressure on judicial time and the poor advocate is invariably obliged to open his case at some length.
So much for curtailing speeches and saving court resources. What does this tell us about the Civil Procedure Rules in terms of directions for preparation of trial bundles and service of skeleton arguments before hearings? This is perhaps an admission that the judiciary is adopting double standards in terms of the strict rules of compliance imposed upon solicitors and consequently counsel.
May I also be permitted to ask what I should tell my clients when I provide them with fee estimates for work which, on the face of it, may be unnecessary? Forgive my scepticism, but this may surely paint for any prospective litigant a picture of a ‘lottery result’ in terms of judicial ability to absorb the documentary matrix of a case within a strict trial window.
I trust that I will not be held in contempt if I suggest, in that event, that perhaps we might be better off with the ad-lib approach adopted by TV’s Judge Judy? At worst it would be a lot cheaper and quicker. At best it would be more entertaining.
David Kirwan, Kirwans, Merseyside