A family judge has issued a public warning to solicitors and barristers to avoid 'cross courting' that impacts on the progress of a case.
Lawyers have long engaged in the practice of accepting instructions in two cases in different courts on the same day, so long as judges are informed what is happening.
But Her Honour Judge Margaret De Haas QC, designated family judge for Cheshire and Merseyside, says cross courting is now causing 'significant delays’ in the management of lists.
In a notice issued in the Liverpool Law Society magazine Liverpool Law, De Haas says local authorities have raised concerns that cross courting has led to social workers being delayed at court for ‘unacceptable’ periods.
She proposes a number of potential sanctions, including reporting the matter to the relevant head of chambers or managing partner of a solicitor's firm, or calling the case into court in the absence of one of the representatives.
Judges may also refuse to sign the relevant advocate attendance form and may require the advocate who has delayed the court hearing to explain themselves before the designated family judge.
De Haas says some cross courting has always been tolerated at the Liverpool Civil and Family Courts, so long as it does not inconvenience other court users and as long as other court users are aware that a lawyer is in another court and that no inconvenience will result to them.
Lawyers who cross court must bring it to the attention of the judge or usher and obtain consent, explaining in which court they are due to appear, when they will return to the court and that everyone else involved in the case has been informed.
De Haas said judges were 'mindful' of cuts in resources that have impacted the listing of cases, but she hoped matters could now proceed without difficulty or inconvenience.