COURT WATCH: DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE: REPORT CANCELLATIONS AND LISTING ISSUES HERE

There have been constant, and consistent, grumblings on social media about problems with court listing. Cases are cancelled at the last moment. Courts are overbooked. There appears to be no, or very little, thought given to the expense involved and the inconvenience caused to litigants (and lawyers). So I have been thinking about, and encouraged, to form a central page for litigators (and litigants) to report problems with listing.  These issues, and decisions, are usually “private” in that decisions are made that only the parties know about.   For this to work I need input from every branch of the profession and in every area of practice – not just civil.  The aim is to promote an informed debate on this issue, and to publicise a problem that appears to be endemic.

You can use the comments on the bottom of this blog or the #courtlisting hashtag on Twitter.

The point (or the aim) is to improve and not just to complain. If there are areas of good practice we need to know about them – in particular how it works.

For the avoidance of doubt I am interested in listing issues across all areas of practice, civil, criminal, family and tribunals.

I am also interested in cases where people have been successful in obtaining compensation from the courts service.  This is sometimes mentioned but never reported.

 CONSULTATION

Penelope Gibbs
 HMCTS asking your views re listings PLEASE respond even if you only answer question 6 “What are your views on our approach to people and systems? How do we best engage with the widest possible range of users as we develop scheduling and listing systems?”

 KEY POINTS

  • I am interested in all issues relating to listing. Not just cancellations but the double-booking of cases. Also cases where the court has listed a hearing and totally ignored the time estimate of the parties. (Those cases where the venue switches to 100’s of miles away are also of interest).
  • Give as much, or as little, information as you feel able to.  I am particularly interested in issues relating to the inconvenience of the parties and the additional expense involved.
  • As I have said I welcome contributions from all areas of practice.
  • The examples can be put in the comments section of the blog below.  I will undertake some “curating” and add these to the blog under distinct headings.
  • The point (or the aim) is to improve and not just to complain. If there are areas of good practice we need to know about them – in particular how it works.
  • If anyone responsible for listing ones to make comments about problems caused by practitioners I will include these.

 

LATEST NEWS

3rd April 2018

29th March 2018″

 

Trial scheduled to start on Tuesday, time estimate 4 weeks, listed last June, removed from the list today. Relisted beginning of May at the demand of the Judge. Because, of course, when a case is listed for 4 weeks, nobody has anything to do in the following 4 weeks, right ?

Hours of prep. Multiple conferences with distances travelled. All seemingly for nothing in a waft of the judicial hand.

MLH

27th March 2018

“Lay justices agreed case needed transferring to a District Judge and needed one hour urgent hearing. Next hearing? Seven weeks’ time (originally offered August). This is family justice in 2018. “

 

“Walsall Cty Ct today. One DJ sitting (usually 3), doing 2 lists, 10 hrs of hearings. J and staff did utmost and got through a lot, but clearly under unnecessary pressure.”

Sonia Nolten

“Turned up for 3 day trial against LIP and was told that it had to be adjourned because the Judge was on holiday. Listing only realised this when, on the morning of the trial, they belatedly emailed my skeleton to her and got her out of office.
And by the way the order was costs in the case because the presiding judge refused to contemplate an order against MOJ. LIP then lost when case was listed and paid two sets of costs. Utterly shameful.
It is still an unhappy memory. The poor man had prepped so hard and he was psyched up to present his case. To then be told he had to go through it all again in 4 months’ time.”

MONITORING TO DATE

Some monitoring has already taken place

Patrick Limb QC of Ropewalk Chambers,

“… across Chambers here, 18 cases late-vacated between 6th February and 2nd March ie. in working day terms, one a day. Others transferred etc. As I understand it, none of them weather-related”

 

CIVIL LISTING

From StirredNtShaken (21/03/18).

“Tomorrow. Fast track trial Kingston upon Thames. Listed 4 months ago pulled from list at 1530 today. Double listed.”

Hamish MacBean

“2 day contract trial listed in Swansea last Thursday/Friday. Pulled on the Wednesday due to lack of Judges.”

From Anton Smith.(20/03/18)

“Dates to avoid in 3-month window submitted to District Registry as directed. ELH agreed and already fixed by court. 5 weeks for listing date to come from DR. In the meantime retained counsel had the County Court list a hearing on a long-running matter with no regard for his availability which now clashes. Still being resolved, incurring considerable cost for client.”

Tim Willits

“Manchester CJC fast track trials commonly listed as floaters in the last few months

 

FAMILY

Marissa Allman

“I was due to start a 3 day retrial before a High Court Judge on Monday. This is a decision about relocation for a child in proceedings which have now been ongoing for 18 months. It didn’t go ahead because the DFJ had erroneously informed said HCJ that the trial was to start on Tuesday, and on the back of that persuaded the HCj to take another case on the Monday. Despite the DFJ having made the order for our case to start on the Monday. HCJ was shocked to find us all gathered at court on Monday ready to start. Also couldn’t proceed because transcripts of evidence had not appeared inspite of expediting orders. Evidence was given in June 2017. We had previously been told the audio files were corrupted and therefore couldn’t be transcribed. This turned out not to be true but orders for transcription so far not complied with by HMCTS. Court also failed to provide interpreters as ordered. Retrial now listed for June on dates which clash with both counsel’s pre-existing commitments. Costs of Monday’s hearing utterly wasted. Client’s and child have another 3 months in limbo.”

 

TRIBUNALS

Paul Gardener.

Employment Tribunal in Cambridge last March. 4 day hearing with numerous witnesses and a nervous client cancelled the day before because “no available judge”. It took 6 months to reconvene. It was due to start on a Monday but on the Friday we were again adjourned. We finally got on recently in another court. 12 Months after the trial was supposed to commence and a very world weary client. Neither counsel or I felt able to charge for the first abortive hearing but neither of us filled the time that was lost with much chargeable time.