A High Court judge has sought once and for all to close three-year proceedings brought by a litigant in person, saying it is not fair to use court time to indulge the matter any further.
His Honour Judge Paul Matthews had struck out the Insolvency Act claim in Reynard v Fox in March, saying he was not prepared to give special treatment to the claimant on account of his unrepresented status. But unknown to the judge at the time, Reynard had already made an extra application for permission to make a claim against the trustee in his bankruptcy proceedings.
‘I cannot justify spending, on a matter which has already taken up three sets of proceedings, so much time which could be more usefully be spent on the disputes of other litigants,’ the judge said. ‘It is not fair to them. It is not fair to society, which has to pay for the whole system. It not fair to the respondent, who has to live with these allegations hanging over him. And, although he may not appreciate it at this stage, it is also not fair to the applicant to keep alive false hopes which cannot ripen into success for him.’
The judge said the Insolvency Act required that the court be satisfied a trustee had misapplied or retained money from the bankrupt’s estate, and the estate had suffered loss as a consequence.
Permission in this area of the law required a reasonably meritorious cause of action and a reasonable chance it result in a benefit to the estate.
The judge said he had made clear in March the limited indulgence that would be given to the claimant’s status as a litigant in person. Following that decision, Reynard had written to the court saying he had learned just how complex insolvency law could be, acknowledging he had failed in his action but insisting he could not afford a specialist lawyer.
HHJ Matthews reiterated he saw no reason why special indulgence should be given if Reynard chose to act in person, and in principle the same rules would apply to him as would apply to a represented party.
The judge outlined that the defendant argued the action was an abuse process and that allegations were vague, unsupported by evidence and disclosed no loss to the estate.
HHJ Matthews said he ‘cannot hope to do justice’ to the breadth of points made in Reynard’s10-page letter to the court last month. The claimant said his opponent represented the ‘establishment’ and that judges were ‘closing ranks’ with him. He emphasised he had a lot of evidence, but that no-one wanted to look at it.