THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 12: ANONYMOUS DISTRICT JUDGE (1)

I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of our club having anonymous members (I will have to check the constitution carefully).  However there are advantages to anonymity, a District Judge (in fact more than one) have agreed to join and contribute their answers.   These particular club members  can provide a profound and important insight to the ongoing problems in the courts. This account may be far more reliable than statistics, and statements coming from higher levels and government channels…

Where are you working from now?

1. From Court

What has been most difficult about working remotely.

2. The setting up and then the control of the remote hearing, especially when LiPs are involved. The time taken each time has varied but always eats in to the allocated time slots putting pressure on getting the business of the hearing done before the next one is due. No virtual usher available to keep waiting parties informed. Knock on effects – headaches from squinting at a screen for lengths of time, sore neck, back from being locked in that position and at the end of each hearing a sore throat from maintaining decorum. It is also disconcerting not knowing until the call out is made if one of the parties will pick up. When in court the usher lets you know who is there and you prepare in advance – mentally –  to conduct the hearing in a certain way. When you have no idea until the very moment the call is made it leaves you feeling unsettled.

What has been your biggest technical challenge?

3. Getting parties together via Microsoft Teams due to failing links, broadband limitations and losing connections.

Is there anything (work wise) that you wish you had with you?

4. Reliable hardware and software!

 

What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned.

5. Before this my concerns about remote hearings were speculative and based on a degree of suspicion. I now know that if justice is to be done properly for litigants – not lawyers – remote hearings have serious limitations for proper engagement and that cliché of access to justice. Lawyer attended case management only, maybe – subject to concerns about listing patterns.

 

Do you think this is going to change the way you work in the future?

6. I so hope not, save case management, maybe. The impact on well being would be immense from our side of the desk, and unfair on many, many litigants.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you are out of lockdown

7. Go and see my parents (in their 80s) followed by my daughter and then (if the sun is shining) a garden party for my friends that I have missed these last few weeks.