A solicitor-advocate has been heavily criticised by a judge over a 'tortured path' of High Court appeals. Scott Halborg applied for permission to bring a combined group of 19 appeals in relation to case management decisions in two county court actions where he was the claimant. Halborg was made subject to a limited civil restraint order last year by Her Honour Judge Bloom to recognise the demands these claims were placing on the court.
At a two-day hearing earlier this month, Halborg pursued 86 grounds of appeal (pared down from 169) and asked the court to consider 79 pages of skeleton argument and an appeal bundle running to 2,527 pages.
In Halborg & Anor v Halborg & Ors, Mr Justice Cotter said every aspect of the appeals related to procedural rather than substantive aspects of the county court judgment, and the claims had spawned a ‘whole constellation’ of satellite issues that have occupied much court time.
The judge said: ‘Just these bare facts lead inexorably to the conclusion that something has gone very badly wrong with the conduct of the litigation. I have never experienced anything remotely like the failures in these two cases to progress a county court claim despite nearly 12 years as a designated civil judge across two regions.
‘After careful consideration of these appeals and what has taken place on the tortured path to this point I have been driven to the conclusion that Mr Halborg, a solicitor, indeed a solicitor advocate, has long forgotten the requirement on all parties to litigation to help the court further the overriding objective.’
Halborg’s trust claim against his parents had not even progressed as far as completion of disclosure and his claim against lawyers who represented them is still subject to a strike-out application. Halborg was represented by Deals & Disputes Solicitors, of which he is a partner and majority-owner.
The judge said the trust claim had been ‘somewhat optimistically’ listed for a four-day trial, although the prospective judge in the case had already faced an application for recusal on the grounds of bias and apparent bias, which she had dismissed.
Addressing the appeal on the restraint order, Halborg’s lawyer said its scope was too wide, although it restrained him only in the context of the litigation he was conducting and other related litigation. Claims commenced in other centres by Halborg against these defendants must be notified to the judge, according to the order.
Cotter said it had been a ‘sensible use of [the judge’s] case management powers’ and there could be no legitimate criticism of the order. He refused permission in relation to most grounds as they did not have a real prospect of success or were not of sufficient significance to justify an appeal. A handful of grounds were granted permission in relation to costs.