Lawyers making out of hours applications when there is no valid reason to do so risk being referred to their regulator, the head of the Commercial Court has warned.

Mrs Justice Cockerill said out of hours applications and the interim applications court are ‘backstops to the court’s own urgent process’ which are ‘only designed to be used in real need’, according to the minutes of the Commercial Court’s user committee meeting last month.

The court’s power to summon lawyers to explain their actions and even refer them to the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Bar Standards Board – known as the Hamid jurisdiction – is not ‘confined’ to judicial review proceedings, Cockerill said.

She said the Commercial Court is ‘becoming concerned that the question of urgency is not always being considered carefully’. ‘It is very rare that a judge cannot be found where there is a need,’ Cockerill said. ‘However, the court is not overflowing with judges and as such the court looks carefully at urgency.’

Cockerill warned that the use of Court 37 – the interim applications court in the Royal Courts of Justice – and the out of hours procedure ‘require users to justify urgency, perhaps even in greater detail than for a commercial judge familiar with the types of applications which the court sees’.

‘Court 37 should only be used by Commercial Court applicants when there is no judge on duty or in the rare event that the court cannot accommodate a case – in which case it will generally actively refer the case to Court 37,’ Cockerill said.

‘The out of hours process is to be used for extremely urgent cases – i.e. when a case genuinely cannot wait until 10.30am the next day.’

She added: ‘The Court 37 and [out of hours] processes are under a lot of scrutiny and lawyers who go there when there is no valid reason for doing so risk a referral under the Hamid jurisdiction. The Hamid jurisdiction is not one which is confined to Administrative Court proceedings – it is of more general application.’

Cockerill also said Commercial Court cases ‘appear to be becoming even more hard-fought, leading to more interlocutory disputes requiring resolution reaching the court’. She ‘stressed that she wanted users to reflect on the sense of urgency which comes across from many Commercial Court users’.