Law Report: New procedure for hearings in chambers

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Practice Direction (Judges in Chambers: Amended Procedure); Queen's Bench Division (Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Chief Justice) 15 October 1996

To expedite hearings of summonses and appeals by the Queen's Bench judge in chambers, the existing procedure (see Practice Direction (Judge in Chambers: Amended Procedure) [1989] 1 WLR 359) has been reorganised as follows.

1. All inter partes applications and appeals to the judge in chambers will initially be entered in a general list. They will be listed for hearing in Room E101 or some other room at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Where any application or appeal is likely to last more than 30 minutes, it will be transferred to the Chambers Warned List. If the parties agree it is likely to last more than 30 minutes, the applicant/appellant must as soon as practicable, and no later than 12 noon on the working day before the date given, transfer the case to the Chambers Warned List. If the parties do not so agree, or agree less than 24 hours before the date given, they must attend on the date given.

2. Cases in the Chambers Warned List will be listed in the Daily Cause List by the Clerk of the Lists when he prepares the following day's list at 2.15 pm. He will where possible accept "offers" in the week in which the matter appears in the warned list. Fixtures will only be given in exceptional circumstances.

3. To ensure a complete set of papers in proper order is available for the judge before hearing such applications and appeals, the parties must in advance of the hearing lodge in Room W11/W13 an agreed bundle, paged and indexed in date order, containing: (i) the notice of appeal or summons; (ii) any pleadings; (iii) copies of all affidavits (with any exhibits thereto) upon which any party intends to rely; and (iv) any relevant order made in the action.

Originals of all affidavits to be relied on should be bespoken or produced at the hearing and all exhibits be available. A skeleton argument and, where helpful, a chronology should be lodged.

The bundle must be lodged not later than 48 hours after the parties have been notified the case is to appear in the warned list. For cases to be heard in the general list, the bundle must be lodged at least 48 hours before the hearing. Skeleton arguments (with chronology) must be lodged not later than 24 hours before the hearing.

4. Except with leave of the judge, no document may be adduced in evidence or relied on unless a copy of it has been lodged and the original produced.

Practice Direcction (ancillary relief: pilot scheme) Family Division (Sir Stephen Brown, President) 25 July 1996

Under a pilot scheme which commenced on 1 October 1996, all ancillary relief applications, in matrimonial proceedings pending or commenced in the Principal Registry Family Division and certain specified county courts, were to be subject to a new procedure.

Sir Stephen Brown, President of the Family Division, said the rule applied to all ancillary relief applications including those under section 10(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, where notice of the application or of intention to proceed with the application for ancillary relief made in the petition or answer was filed on or after 1 October.

The new rule provided for an early first directions appointment at which directions would be given with the objective to defining the issues and saving costs. Provision was made for there to be a financial dispute resolution (FDR) appointment where proposals for resolving the application could be discussed in circumstances of privilege. The extent of discovery would be limited.

Where legal representatives attended the first appointment or FDR appointment they would be required to have full knowledge of the case.

The disctrict judge or judge before whom the FDR appointment was held would have no further involvement with the application other than to conduct any further FDR appointment. Where possible, all appointments other than the FDR appointment should be before the same district judge.

The application of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 (SI 1247) to proceedings covered by the new rule would be modified according to the direction.

Paul Magrath, Barrister