I am a commercial litigator of some 44 years’ experience and I work in civil courts all over the country. I have noticed over recent years that, with all the problems facing our civil justice system, the efficiency of our judges is rapidly diminishing in one particular area of courtroom practice.
In no less than three cases recently at county courts as far apart as Liverpool, Caernarvon and Worcester, I have had the uncomfortable experience of appearing before a judge on an interlocutory application who has either not read the papers at all or has failed to read skeleton arguments and late witness evidence.
The malaise is not confined to district judges but sadly does occasionally extend to circuit judges. How do I then explain to my private paying clients, who have spent good money on counsel’s fees drafting skeleton arguments etc, that preparatory work of this nature is wasted because it often goes unread when either court staff don’t put the documents before the judge or he simply hasn’t got time to read them?
The litigants are the end-users of the courts and would, in my opinion, be better served not by the plethora of reform that currently inundates us all like a tsunami, but rather by providing resources that eradicate such unfairness and inefficiency. This would lead to just disposal of cases, reduce appeals and inevitably filter down to reducing the costs of litigation.
David Kirwan, senior partner, Kirwans, Merseyside