Lord Neuberger comments on the role of civil court trial judges

Lord Neuberger, in his keynote address to the Manchester Law Society and Northern Circuit Commercial Bar Association, spoke on the role of civil trial judges, both before and during trial, and how this has changed.

He also addressed the effect of the Jackson Reforms, particularly on the costs and funding of civil proceedings and, by implication, on the way in which cases are managed, particularly where one or more of the parties is a litigant in person (LIP).

Lord Neuberger was asked to speak about the role of the trial judge in civil cases. In doing so, he addressed various issues including:

Costs and case management

Lord Neuberger spoke of the importance of proportionate costs and of costs management and considered the important 'new' judicial pre-trial role of costs management to be justified for a number of stated reasons

Costs

Lord Neuberger recognised a downside of seeking to 'contain the expense of litigation' through case and costs management was, unfortunately, the resultant front-loading of costs. He also spoke of his disappointment in relation to reforms to fixed costs and his hope that they would soon be introduced to all (not just PI) fast track claims and perhaps even be extended to smaller value multi-track claims

Funding and LIPs

Lord Neuberger observed the Woolf and Jackson reforms both seem to have gone hand in hand with, or to have motivated, legislative reforms limiting legal aid. One of the knock on effects of this has been the increased numbers of litigants in person (LIPs) which has, in turn, effected the judge's role and responsibility, particularly in cases where one or more of the parties is a LIP

ADR and ODR

Lord Neuberger addressed the promotion of ADR and developments in relation to ODR (online dispute resolution) and the challenges this might pose to the judiciary and effective and efficient

Appellate court

Lord Neuberger spoke of the (positive) differences between our appellate system and that of some other jurisdictions. He also referred to the reluctance with which an appellate court in this jurisdiction should interfere with a trial judge’s procedural ruling

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