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Bundles

 

Has any comparable body of reform ever been introduced so quickly, so smoothly and so effectively? – The President, view 11

 

Well, perhaps having hit practitioners with 18 new statutory instruments containing the rules for how things are to be done on Tuesday 22nd April, many of which we got on Wednesday (two working days before) might not be classed by some churlish curmudgeons as smooth and efficient.

[As you may have picked up over the last two years, I READ. I quite like reading law. I even quite like reading statutory instruments. But I draw the line at reading 18. If even I’m not reading them, I have to ponder “Who is?”]

 

Perhaps also having changed the rules about bundles from next Tuesday, and doing so two working days before, after most of them would have already been sent out, could have been smoother and more efficient, but you’d be a fool and a communist to say so.

 

Anyway, here are the President’s new rules about bundles.

 

http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/uploads/attachments/0008/5165/FPR_PD_27A__Bundles_.pdf

 

I think on the whole, I rather prefer Sedley J’s rules

 

http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/judire1&div=8&id=&page=

  1. First Law: Documents may be assembled in any order, provided it is not chronological, numerical or alphabetical.
  2. Second Law: Documents shall in no circumstances be paginated continuously.
  3. Third Law: No 2 copies of any bundle shall have the same pagination.
  4. Fourth Law: Every document shall carry at least 3 numbers in different places.
  5. Fifth Law: Any important documents shall be omitted.
  6. Sixth Law: At least 10 per cent of the documents shall appear more than once in the bundle.
  7. Seventh Law: As many photocopies as practicable shall be illegible, truncated or cropped.
  8. Eighth Law: At least 80 per cent of the documents shall be irrelevant. Counsel shall refer in Court to no more than 10 per cent of the documents, but these may include as many irrelevant ones as counsel or solicitor deems appropriate.
  9. Ninth Law: Only one side of any double-sided document shall be reproduced.
  10. Tenth Law: Transcriptions of manuscript documents shall bear as little relation as reasonably practicable to the original.
  11. Eleventh Law: Documents shall be held together, in the absolute discretion of the solicitor assembling them, by: a steel pin sharp enough to injure the reader; a staple too short to penetrate the full thickness of the bundle; tape binding so stitched that the bundle cannot be fully opened; or a ring or arch-binder, so damaged that the 2 arches do not meet.

 

 

In any event, changes are afoot on bundles. People need to be aware that none of the source material will be in a bundle read by the Court UNLESS the Court has specifically directed its insertion. If you want to rely on contact notes, foster care records, police disclosure, medical records, school reports, then you are going to need to apply for them to be added to the bundle – and expect to have to justify exactly why they are proportionate and necessary.

 

That is going to be particularly important if you have picked up a final hearing brief for which someone else did the IRH – if they got the contact notes in, you’re going to be expected to make some use of them or annoy the Judge who agreed to their insertion, or worse – if counsel at IRH didn’t ask for them and you want them, you’re going to have to make an application. (And those notes won’t be available at a moments notice, so I suspect you will need to put everyone on notice in good time that you intend to do so)

 

Everyone is to file a position statement, limited to 2 pages, for each hearing. And they are expected to set out the orders they seek both at that hearing and final hearing.  (Expect to see a lot of bland “We seek Care / Supervision Orders at final hearing, depending on the outcome of assessments” because anything else from the LA or Guardian is a hostage to fortune / evidence of prejudgment)

 

Case summaries are limited to 4 pages – bad news for any existing pro-formas in courts around the country  which would run much longer than that.

 

Case summaries for cases done before justices are to be anonymised.  (I know, they are sent to the justices along with a bundle of papers that are not anonymised, I have no idea what ill this is intended to remedy or what sense it is intended to make)

 

4.4 Each of the preliminary documents shall be as short and succinct as possible and shall state on the front page immediately below the heading the date when it was prepared and the date of the hearing for which it was prepared. Where proceedings relating to a child are being heard by magistrates the summary of the background shall be prepared in anonymised form, omitting the names and identifying information of every person referred to other than the parties’ legal representatives, and stating the number of pages contained in the bundle. Identifying information can be contained in all other preliminary documents.

 

 

You will also note that in cases before the justices, we need to count the pages for them. DJ’s and circuit judges are expected to be able to count for themselves, one surmises.

 

This bit is going to be loved by Local Authorities who are dealing with the RCJ  (thank God, it only applies to  the RCJ. The people who wrote this have CLEARLY never tried to have a productive telephone call with the RCJ)

8.2 Upon learning before which judge a hearing is to take place, the clerk to counsel, or other advocate, representing the party in the position of applicant shall no later than 3 pm the day before the hearing:

(a) in a case where the hearing is before a judge of the High Court,

telephone the clerk of the judge hearing the case;

(b) in a case where the hearing is before any other judge email the Clerk of the Rules at RCJ.familyhighcourt@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk;

to ascertain whether the judge has received the bundle (including the preliminary documents) and, if not, shall organise prompt delivery by the applicant’s solicitor.

 

The bundles are to be limited to 350 pages or less – unless the Court orders otherwise. In case you were thinking of being a wise-guy loophole sort of person, they have already anticipated that you might just use REALLY HUGE pieces of paper

 

5.1 Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, the bundle shall be contained in one A4 size ring binder or lever arch file limited to no more than 350 sheets of A4 paper and 350 sides of text.

 

 

Okay, so if I can’t use REALLY HUGE pieces of paper, I’ll just write really small. Nope, already got that covered

 

 

5.2 All documents in the bundle shall (a) be copied on one side of paper only,unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, and (b) be typed or printed in a font no smaller than 12 point and with 1½ or double spacing.

 My last loophole is that there is not a requirement that the bundles be written in English, so I can lodge everything in shorthand and still comply with the practice direction.

[By the way, all of my bundles are currently double-sided, which means that everyone now has to photocopy them all again single-sided and confidentially shred the ones that were perfectly fine yesterday.  Approximately 11,000 cases across the country, each shredding 200 pieces of paper purely for the benefit of this practice direction. I hope Sting doesn’t read my blog. Also, 350 pages of single sided paper don’t actually fit into a single lever arch folder… 350 pages of double-sided can be a bit of a tight squeeze]

 

5.3 The ring binder or lever arch file shall have clearly marked on the front and the spine:

(a) the title and number of the case;

(b) the place where the case has been listed;

(c) the hearing date and time;

(d) if known, the name of the judge hearing the case; and

(e) where in accordance with a direction of the court there is more than one ring binder or lever arch file, a distinguishing letter (A, B, C etc).

 

[As has been pointed out, as nobody any longer knows how to distinguish between two separate buildings – Trumpton Family Proceedings Court and Trumpton County Court, since on Tuesday they are both just Trumpton Family Court, that’s not that easy any more]

 
All numbering is to be “Arabic”  

Well, if that will help…

  • 1 – Wahid
  • 2 – Ithnaan
  • 3 -Thalaatha
  • 4 – Arba’a
  • 5 – Khamsa
  • 6 – Sitta
  • 7 – Sab’a
  • 8 – Thamania
  • 9 – Tiss’a
  • 10 – ‘Ashra

If you need to go up into the hundreds, here’s the link http://blogs.transparent.com/arabic/arabic-numbers-1-100/

And of course, there’s a stick for any breach of the practice direction – you can be kicked out of the list, kept back to the end of the list or be hit for costs.

 

Penalties for failure to comply with the practice direction

12.1 Failure to comply with any part of this practice direction may result in the judge removing the case from the list or putting the case further back in the list and may also result in a “wasted costs” order or some other adverse costs order.

 Remember, this applies from Tuesday next week. Happy Easter.

 We ask again…

Has any comparable body of reform ever been introduced so quickly, so smoothly and so effectively? – The President, view 11 

To end on a happier note – this being Easter, and it being a piece about bundles AND my blog title being inspired by Dr Seuss  – this is an actual genuine US judgment refusing to allow a party to exhibit a hard boiled egg to his statement

http://kevinunderhill.typepad.com/Documents/Court_Orders/Hard_Boiled_Egg.pdf

 

 

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