Update: Delay in major overhaul of pre-trial procedures in the High Court
29 September 2016
The application of one of the new statutory instruments seeking to overhaul pre-trial procedures, due to come into effect on 1 October 2016, has now been delayed.
The Case Management Rules¹ are intended to introduce significant changes to the existing procedures in Chancery and Non-Jury² actions, with the clear aim of conducting trials in a swift and efficient manner, reducing costs and pressure on court resources. However, following representations made to the President of the High Court, and pending the provision of appropriate necessary resources, the practical application of the Case Management Rules has been delayed.
Under the Case Management Rules, certain Judges and Registrars may be appointed exclusively to take charge of specific lists. However, in view of the constraints above, the President does not currently intend to appoint a List Judge or Registrar within the meaning of the rules. Consequently, the Case Management Rules will have no practical effect until such assignments are made.
The President has stated that two months’ advance notice will be given to practitioners prior to assignments being made. Once these appointments are made, the List Judge will be able to direct that proceedings are conducted in a manner which is “just, expeditious and likely to minimise the costs of those proceedings”. The List Judge, when appointed, can:
- decide to case manage proceedings at any stage;
- direct and guide parties through the pleading and discovery phases of proceedings;
- order case management conferences and pre-trial conferences; and
- direct that the case proceeds only by way of Affidavit evidence and / or by means of an agreed statement of issues, removing the need for a lengthy trial with oral evidence.
The Trial Rules³ are also due to come into effect on 1 October 2016 – the application of these Rules will proceed. These rules will overhaul procedures during the trial itself and also set out new rules in relation to, inter alia, non–party disclosure and expert evidence.
While change is always challenging, the Trial Rules and Case Management Rules are a welcome development and will reduce court delays, if utilised effectively. It will be interesting to see when the appointments are made and the Case Management Rules brought into play.
¹ SI 255/2016 (Rules of the Superior Courts (Chancery and Non-Jury Actions: Pre-trial procedures) 2016) (the “Case Management Rules”).
² And such other proceedings as the President of the High Court may designate. Order 63C, Rule 2(1) of the Case Management Rules.
³ SI 254/2016 (Rules of the Superior Courts (Conduct of Trials) 2016) (the “Trial Rules”).