Important High Court authority that states that where a case involves both a Litigant in Person AND a lawyer, the lawyer has to ensure that any case management documents and case law is provided to the litigant in person at least THREE WORKING DAYS before a contested hearing.
This, when you see it in black and white is of course fair. In this case, the litigant in person was handed counsel’s position statement and case law relied upon at the first morning of the final hearing, 114 pages of fresh information, much of it quite dense. That can’t be fair.
It will though necessitate a change in working practice. The reason the documents aren’t provided three days in advance generally is that they just don’t exist at that point. We have got used to a “Just in Time” pace, where the substantial prep for a hearing is done closer and closer to the actual hearing; in part just as a result of volumes of work and in part because with so many cases the position three days before a hearing bears little relationship to the position AT the hearing.
This is going to apply to a lot of private law cases, but also care proceedings where there’s an unrepresented Intervenor or party such as grandparents. It will also apply to adoption and leave to oppose adoption cases where it is very rare for the parents to obtain free legal representation.
The Judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson also reminds us of the Practice Direction Rules which state that a bundle must be provided to counsel not less than 3 working days prior to the hearing.
- The party preparing the bundle must provide a paginated index to all other parties not less than 4 working days before the hearing
- Where counsel is instructed, s/he must have a paginated bundle not less than 3 working days before the hearing
- The bundle (with the exception of the preliminary documents, known as Practice Direction documents) must be lodged with the court not less than 2 working days before the hearing
- The PD documents must be lodged with the court no later than 11 am on the day before the hearing. The rule does not provide for service on the other parties, but the implication must be that the document will be sent to them no later than that
Hands up anyone who is regularly experiencing that.
Ah, I see Ms Azim of counsel is rising to her feet. To agree that she always receives bundles three working days before the hearing in accordance with PD27A ? Not quite