The judge in charge of implementing the Jackson civil litigation reforms has reassured solicitors they will have forgotten the current uncertainty over compliance within a couple of years.
Mr Justice Ramsey told the Law Society’s Civil Justice Section conference that last year’s Mitchell ruling had made firms ‘much more nervous’ about the consequences of non-compliance with costs rules. But he reiterated that the decision was based on correct principles and predicted the current disquiet will start to subside.
‘Over time there will be a smoothing of the application [of the Jackson reforms] and a number of cases where relief from sanctions has been granted,’ said Ramsey.
‘You will find in a year or two some people saying “I remember Mitchell” and it won’t be seen as having quite the large effect it has at present.’
Ramsey said parties are starting to be ‘more realistic’ about costs budgets and disputes – although some firms are still not putting budgets in on time.
David Marshall, chair of the Law Society’s Civil Justice Committee, said it was too late to reverse the Jackson reforms, but his group would work with the Civil Procedure Rule Committee for amendments.
Research is now under way into the level of sanctions for Jackson non-compliance and whether it has been consistent across the courts, Marshall said: ‘There is a strong desire among the senior judiciary to back the Jackson package. There is a belief [among judges] that it will still all blow over.
‘Solicitors need to know in advance what the sanction is and that it is fair and proportionate.’