THE RULE COMMITTEE: ACTING WITH THE SPEED OF A TORTOISE WITH A WOODEN LEG (AND THAT MAY BE UNFAIR ON THREE-LEGGED TORTOISES).
At a time when we have had major pieces of legislation introduced at remarkable speed the Rule Committee has, thus far, managed nothing. I am asked what response I got to the “Open Letter” to the Rule Committee about the need for flexibility – the answer is none. I got dozens, if not hundreds, of supportive responses from throughout the profession and a supportive write up in the Gazette.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SAYS
That Gazette article, written on the 31st March, reported.
“Speaking to the House of Commons justice committee on Tuesday, lord chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said that ‘flexibility is the order of the day’ in civil litigation, adding: ‘If a limitation period is missed on a PI claim then circumstances of Covid-19 clearly would be a material factor for a court to consider’.”
Fine words, but to date, nothing practical has happened.
HOWEVER – TAKE A LOOK AT THE NEW PRACTICE DIRECTION: THE TITLE IS BIGGER THAN ITS CONTENTS
These issues have clearly been considered. As someone commented on this blog if you look closely at the new Practice Direction 51Z which stayed possession proceedings its full title is “PRACTICE DIRECTION 51Z – STAY OF POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS AND
EXTENSION OF TIME LIMITS – CORONAVIRUS”
It appears likely that someone was considering putting a power to extend time in the Practice Direction but this was removed, most probably because a Practice Direction cannot override the rules.
SO STILL WE WAIT…
Local judges have taken the initiative in relation to allowing parties to extend time periods, specifically allowing e-signatures and generally encouraging co-operation. The Rule Committee has not been so prompt.
If anything happens I hope to report it here.