Plans to reform ‘monster’ levels of disclosure in civil trials should apply only to the highest value cases and certain claims should be exempt from any restrictions on the volume of evidence, the Law Society has said as the judiciary looks to sign off a far reaching scheme.
The reforms, recommended by the Disclosure Working Group, aim to tackle the volume of data that can be disclosed pre-trial which the judiciary claimed has ‘increased to unmanageable proportions’.
Responding to proposals made by a working group of judges and lawyers, including master of the rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Chancery Lane said the scheme should apply only to cases valued at more than £500,000.
Plans announced in November last year recommended creating two tiers of disclosure, basic and extended. Basic disclosure will include key documents necessary for an opponent to understand the case, while extended disclosure will be at the mercy of a judge. Parties will be required to agree a list of issues ahead of the first case management conference.
The Society said: ‘We have expressed some concern that perceived issues relating to disclosure may exist only in high value commercial litigation. With that in mind we have suggested that the working group may wish to consider whether there are existing powers the court could exercise in relation to disclosure.’ It also called for further engagement with the profession and expressed concern over the amount of judicial time required to accommodate the proposals, noting that the 'resources of the court are already overstretched'.
‘The impact on practice will need to be seriously considered, looking both at the type of work included in the pilot and whether problems in disclosure exist elsewhere in the profession,’ it said.
A four-month window for feedback opened in December and the proposed scheme is expected to be approved in March or April.