SIR JACK JACOB QC AND THE FABRIC OF ENGLISH CIVIL JUSTICE: LESSONS FOR TODAY?

Mediatelegal

With the speed in which modern litigation is conducted it is often difficult to pause and reflect, let alone look back to assess whether experts from the past can assist.  For some time I have been looking for a copy “The Fabric of English Civil Justice” by Sir Jack Jacobs QC. I read it over 20 years ago and wanted to see how it held up with time.

SIR JACK JACOBS

Sir Jack Jacobs was for many years a High Court Master, Senior Master and general editor of the white book. It is impossible here to summarise the amount of his abilities and achievements, they are summarised in an obituary and an article celebrating his 90th birthday. He was a titan of civil procedure combining practical knowledge with extensive academic ability .

FINDING THE BOOK

I was pleased to find that, thanks to Exeter University,  the book is now available on line as an adobe document. It is based on the 1986 Hamlyn lectures. Re-reading it now the perceptiveness of the writer remains remarkable. Sir Jack Jacobs anticipated many of the key demands and changes that would be made in the civil litigation process. He anticipated the use of technology at a time when the internet was not a reality and a “notebook” was a blue paper pad.  There is no doubt at all that it remains essential reading for all those interested in civil procedure and effective reform of the civil courts.

THE CLOSING WORDS OF THE BOOK

However what is particularly perceptive are the closing lines of the book.

“There is the further temptation, perhaps greater today than ever before, to seek for solutions to new problems on grounds of cost-effectiveness. Measures may be proposed to reduce costs, delays and technicalities, but it will also be found that such measures may have as their ultimate objective those of reducing the need for more judges, providing more space for judge and courts, reducing judge-time and reducing the cost of judicial administration generally. In this context, it is worth recalling the following passage from a characteristically forthright speech,

It is not only important to realise that litigation is an evil; it is also important to realise that neither speed, nor cheapness nor universality are the ultimate ends of litigation. The ultimate end is justice….” (63)

The pursuit of justice must therefore remain paramount in fashioning the fabric of English civil justice in the future, for “justice is the greatest interest of man on earth” (64).

 

63. Mr Quintin Hogg MP (Later Lord Hailsham of Marylebone, Lord Chancellor) on May 25 1949, on the Third Reading of teh Legal Aid and Advice Bill.

64. Daniel Webster in his eulogy of Mr Justice Story, The Challenge of Law Reform (Princeton University Press, 1955), p.1.