THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 14 : ANONYMOUS DISTRICT JUDGE (2): EXERCISING A “RIGHT OF REPLY”
Our 14th club member is also anonymous. A second District Judge provides some insight into the difficulties of continuing to work throughout the problems caused by COVID-19.
Where are you working from now?
Home. A market town 60 miles from my home Court.
What has been most difficult about working remotely.
Not having access to the paper files, where appropriate.; not seeing colleagues; missing papers; getting through to skeleton Court staff to chase for documents, telephone numbers etc; the extra time required for preparation reading , the length of time it takes to connect parties to remote telephone hearings (a task that most DJs are being required to do themselves without staff support) and how surprisingly exhausting remote hearings are; HMCTS and MoJ propoganda about “how wonderfully everything is running and how intended reforms have been brought forward ahead of time” without a right of reply to provide the true context for the sake of balance!
What has been your biggest technical challenge?
Self learning new technology overnight and filling gaps in knowledge of usage and functions of existing available software that I had never bothered to explore beyond basic levels before; that said the absence of PDF software that makes electronic bundles searchable has made this learning unnecessarily challenging.
Is there anything (work wise) that you wish you had with you?
At least one extra screen beyond the single judicial laptop one; ability to connect that laptop to a printer; my textbooks which have been left behind in Court; the paper files; our wonderful team of ushers!
What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned.
How to use software more extensively than before; the need to be ultra organised eg by creating multiple folders in Outlook to keep the flood of emails in some semblance of order for quick reference; how much easier the job can be made even under really difficult circumstances when advocates cooperate with each other, lets hope that lasts!
Do you think this is going to change the way you work in the future?
Yes to some degree but not entirely. More case management in some jurisdictions could be done remotely. Hearings requiring evidence will seldom be suitable for remote hearings no matter what some advocates may like to think. The important work done by The Transparency Project has demonstrated clearly that not only must Justice be done, it must be seen to be done and it must be felt to have been done. There is ample anecdotal evidence of colleagues who worry that they might have made wrong decisions that they would have been more confident about if the hearing had been in person and litigants who feel that they have not had a proper day in a proper Court.
What is the first thing you are going to do when you are out of lockdown?
Escape to the Golf Course followed by a Dinner or more likely socially distanced Garden Party for friends and neighbours.