The architect of controversial costs management reforms has returned to the subject to insist his changes will not be watered down.
Lord Justice Jackson said costs budgeting has worked well and brought ‘substantial’ benefits for court users since it was introduced as part of civil litigation reforms two years ago.
Jackson, speaking at a lecture in London yesterday, stated that practitioners are now coping well with the new regime, with key judges and masters supportive of costs management.
Having faced ‘dire’ predictions and been ‘attacked from all sides’ prior to April 2013, Jackson said he had the ‘distinct impression that the hostility to costs management is steadily abating’.
‘The new regime is in the public interest and is here to stay,’ he said. ‘Why then do quite a few lawyers dislike it? Because it means more work and requires people to develop new skills.
‘The civil justice system exists to deliver civil justice to the public at proportionate cost, not to promote the contentment or convenience of lawyers.’
He insisted that within 10 years costs management will be accepted as an ‘entirely normal discipline’, but he accepted the system has not run perfectly and there is scope for change.
Jackson recommended that all civil judges are compelled to take a full-day module on costs management and called for all costs budgets to be submitted 14, rather than the present seven, days before the case management hearing.
He accepted that courts are making costs management orders in virtually every case, causing a backlog of cases lasting up to nine months – particularly in clinical negligence. These delays are ‘unacceptable’ and defeat the object of the 2013 reforms.
In a small departure from his previous position, Jackson suggested that civil procedure rules could be amended to set out criteria to guide courts in deciding whether or not to make a costs management order.
‘The court should not manage costs in any case if it lacks the resources to do so without causing significant delay and disruption to that or other cases,’ he said. The element of discretion, he added, should not become an excuse for judges to ‘opt out’ and lead to forum shopping, as judges with leadership roles will actively monitor how they are exercising that discretion.
Jackson has also recommended all London clinical negligence cases which have case management conferences already listed between October 2015 and January 2016 to be released from costs management to help clear the backlog.
The introduction of discretion, albeit only in cases where a lack of court resources would lead to significant delay, is set to be disputed by other senior members of the judiciary.
Master of the rolls Lord Dyson, who stood on the same stage as Jackson, said he supported most of his colleague’s recommendations but not this one.
He added: ‘I fear the lack of resource card would be played in many cases and there is a danger costs management would become the exception, not the rule.’