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It's very tempting to say 'I told you so' and be smugly sitting back watching the chaos, but sadly we have to deal with it on a daily basis. My firm too has had trials cancelled at last minute because of judge unavailability. Our local court was one that was reprieved at the last minute, but as other nearby courts were not, the work done in them has transferred to our court, and therefore there is backlog after backlog.

On top of that, the morale with the court staff is at rock bottom - as is the morale of anybody connected with the legal profession, in my opinion - so we are unlikely to be getting the 'above and beyond' help that we used to get in the heady days of yore. You have to make an appointment to go to the court office now should you have need to, for instance, have a document stamped, and it's a sad and lacklustre experience to have to go there. We used to be on first name terms with the staff and things moved along smoothly, more or less, with common sense attitudes being applied. Now you barely know with whom you are dealing.

Don't get me started on the bizarre e-mail thing either - we are encouraged to e-mail filed documents, orders etc to the court to various e-mail addresses, including those of the district judges; but should you inadvertently send the wrong document to the wrong address (and it's a complex and layered structure of e-mails, let me tell you!) then rather than, say, pass the document on to the right address, they send you an e-mail back often much, much later, returning your original e-mail. I appreciate that the onus is on you to check these things, but we are all human and the array of different e-mails for different things is truly astonishing.

I'm not against progress, I'm fully on board with using technology to improve things, and I appreciate that there is not a bottomless pit of money somewhere to provide public services - but somehow we appear to have reached a situation whereby we are paying far more for far less, and being told that we are going to be getting even less in the future, but it's bound to be better for us. Oh, and then we are encouraged to do things pro bono to assist the growing ranks of litigants in person who are left stranded by the cuts in funding, the changes to costs rules and the aforesaid extortionate court fees. Much as I would love to, I have to pay my mortgage and feed my family, and I already don't have enough time to contend with so many rules and regulations that my head is spinning every time i pick up a file to check that I am not breaching something or other.

Hadn't intended this to be a rant, but clearly beneath my calm exterior I'm properly cross! Bottom line - the court system is on the verge of collapse, the court users are being penalised by large fees when their ability to pay them is being constrained by cuts to their income stream and not only are we not seeing 'value for money' but we are expected to be not only grateful for what we've got, but to learn to expect less and less. It is only a matter of time before everything implodes.

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