APPEALS FROM DISTRICT JUDGES WHEN CASES HAVE BEEN RELEASED TO THEM: A POINT TO WATCH

The judgment of Mr Justice Morgan in Hilton v Cosnier [2018] EWHC 3728 (Ch) highlights a practical issue that is easy to overlook.  Cases, that are normally tried by a Circuit Judge, can be released to a District Judge. Appeals from the District Judge in these circumstances are to the High Court Judge.  In this case the claimants sought and obtained permission to appeal from a Circuit Judge who (probably) did not have jurisdiction to do so.  The problem was rectified at this hearing, other litigants may not be so fortunate.

THE CASE

The claimants were appealing the decision of a District Judge.  The case had been released to him. A Circuit Judge had given permission to appeal.

THE JUDGE’S COMMENTS

Mr Justice Morgan stated.

  1. Before dealing with the substance of the appeal, I ought to refer to certain procedural matters. In this case, the claim would ordinarily have been tried by a circuit judge but the case was formally released for trial to District Judge Lightman. That meant that the Appeal Court, for an appeal against his order, was the High Court and not the county court. The destination of an appeal in a case of that kind was decided by Kerr J in Topping v Ralph Trustees Limited [2017] EWHC 1954 QB Before it was realised that the appeal in this case should be dealt with by the High Court, Judge Dight, sitting in the county court, was asked to deal with an application for permission to appeal. Judge Dight granted permission to appeal.
  2. On the face of it, Judge Dight’s order was made without jurisdiction. The question of jurisdiction in relation to Judge Dight’s order was not specifically raised before me. I asked Mr Cousins QC, who appears for the appellant, to comment on this point. He suggested that the right analysis was that this was a case where Judge Dight had de facto jurisdiction. That suggestion was not further investigated, as I indicated that if permission to appeal still needed to be given by the High Court, I would grant such permission. Accordingly, the order to be made following this judgment should include a direction that permission to appeal is given, to the extent that that is necessary.