October 31, 2008
The Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, has appointed Lord Justice Jackson to head a committee to review the costs of civil litigation.
The appointment apparently follows a meeting between Sir Anthony Clarke and Bridget Prentice, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice. Bridget Prentice’s specific responsibilities include access to justice (or, rather, Access to Justice, the capitals presumably denoting a Government “initiative” rather than merely a statement of the right of every citizen).
There is as yet nothing on the Ministry of Justice web site about this, but a Legal Week report says that the review will begin in January and report in December 2009. Lord Justice Jackson will be assisted by a small team of assessors drawn from the judiciary, the legal profession and, interestingly, an economist. Read the rest of this entry »
October 30, 2008
Sydney feels familiar from the moment you step off the plane. It is not just its culture, language and architecture which makes you feel at home – its law, its information management issues, the remedies available to judges and the suppliers are the same or similar
Several decades ago, I lived and taught in Kenya on what was then not called a “gap year”. The gap was not optional in those days for those intending to go to Oxford or Cambridge. I had until September to occupy, and arranged to spend the interval at a remote up-country school near Nyeri.
There was a boy amongst us who could see English parallels everywhere – you would be standing on a mud road looking up a valley of tea plantations at the mist hanging over the snowy peak of Mount Kenya and he would say “Just like the Lake District”. I have half a recollection that he compared a part of Nairobi to his native Croydon. This obsession with the similarities became slightly annoying for one whose pleasure derived from the geographical and cultural differences. In fact, although Kenya had become independent only ten years previously, pretty well every outward trace of colonial rule had been extirpated. The first signs of the new colonialism of the multinational existed in the form of a new Hilton Hotel.
I thought of this as I came in to Sydney over Botany Bay, whose sewage farm, oil refinery and container terminal jarred somewhat against my mental picture of Captain Cook picking daffodils beside gleaming sands. The first sign you see, over the starboard wing before your wheels touch the ground, are the yellow arches of McDonalds. One’s expectations of finding anything very different from Oxford or Washington diminish accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »
October 30, 2008
The odds on gaining improved information management from the recession are better than those on offer for Peter Mandelson’s resignation before the next election. The war to tame the information needed for litigation and regulation, like other wars, will breed new tactics and technologies
My article What will recession do for civil justice?, which I published last Friday, brought together subjects as diverse as the agricultural depression of the 1870s and Peter Mandelson’s attachment to rich foreigners, in the context of leadership and the role of judges in the recovery which will come from the attrition of recession. My theme was that as lawyers and judges sort through the wreckage of the old economy, there may be an opportunity for business practices to take a leap forward. Specifically, I suggested that the time and expense of handling the litigation which has suddenly become a non-optional part of corporate strategy might prompt companies to reappraise how they manage the information whose volumes will prove the biggest single source of expense in litigation. The courts will have a hand in shaping how important that seems next time round. Read the rest of this entry »
October 29, 2008
A seminar in Birmingham allowed an audience of lawyers to see some of the applications used to handle electronic disclosure topped and tailed by some explanation of the litigation context. It was not just a trade show but a visual way to convey that the solutions are gaining on the problem
The e-Disclosure Information Project originated in Birmingham when Mark Surguy of Pinsent Masons introduced me last summer to HHJ Simon Brown QC, a designated Mercantile Judge at the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre. We brought it back there at the beginning of October when Edward Pepperall, a commercial barrister at St Philips Chambers, arranged for the Midland Chancery & Commercial Bar Association to invite us to give a reprise of a talk he had heard us give to solicitors a few months ago.
Ed Pepperall’s reasoning was that barristers are increasingly getting involved in the procedural aspects of Case Management Conferences. Birmingham may be ahead of other places because the judges there are known to practice the “active management” which the overriding objective requires and in which the parties are expected to take their part. The Commercial Court Guide, on which the Mercantile Court Guides are based, emphasises that the CMC is not just the old summons for directions. Judge Brown says of the CMC that is a “business meeting”.
If barristers are engaged at the CMC then they need to be aware – preferably well before they go in, and not just in the corridor outside – what the court will expect them to cover. Hands up all those who know about the obligation to discuss electronic sources of documents in Paragraph 2A.2 of the Practice Direction to Part 31 CPR. I thought not. What about Digicel (St Lucia) v Cable & Wireless? We did not mention that, because it had not been heard then. It has now, and we can expect many more orders requiring parties to discuss their sources and to take difficulties or disagreements to the judge. Read the rest of this entry »
October 26, 2008
We at last have a reported case on the scope of a reasonable search for electronic documents and on the duty of parties to co-operate. You do not need case law to validate a clear rule, but Digicel (St Lucia) Ltd v Cable & Wireless has wider implications than its facts suggest, if only in terms of spreading awareness of the rules.
I was once discussing with the US General Counsel of a multinational company the points which distinguish the CPR requirements on disclosure from those of the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The specific subject was the scope of the search which is required, and I was explaining that our obligations under Rule 31.7 CPR were defined by broad notions of proportionality for which the rules provided a set of factors, whose weight was ultimately a matter for the court’s discretion if the parties could not agree. Read the rest of this entry »
October 24, 2008
I nearly did Gordon Brown an injustice last night. My notes for a talk to be given in Birmingham included the observation that “our weasel-worded Prime Minister has not yet found the guts to admit that we are in or heading for recession”. Fortunately, the subject came up in the pre-seminar drinks, and someone drew my attention to the fact that our weasel-worded Prime Minister had in fact summoned the courage to use the R-word the previous day.
I am a newspaper junkie, which is subtly different from being a news junkie. I do not much mind about being bang up to date with the news, but no copy of the Times leaves the house without my reading it from cover to cover – well not the sport obviously or the fashion, but most of the rest. Having been off doing my Phileas Fogg bit (I was at e-disclosure conferences in both Sydney and Washington the previous week), I have a large backlog of newspapers to read, and keeping up to date has suffered as a result.
It is rather odd, in fact, reading old papers over a week as volatile as that one, particularly as I read them in no particular order. It was not just that share prices were going up and down like an intern’s knickers. There were old stories coming round again, and I began to think that I had fallen into a newspaper time-warp. Here is the Labour party finally fulfilling its 1931 plan to nationalise the banks (good to know that Labour keeps some of its promises anyway, even if it takes a while). And there is Peter Mandelson accepting hospitality from a rich foreigner just before the foreigner gets a valuable trade concession. No connection at all, says Mandy and, of course, we have to believe him, just as we had to believe Tony Blair when he said that he knew nothing about the Bernie Ecclestone £1 million loan and its intimate connection, in terms of timeliness at least, with the relaxation of the tobacco advertising ban. Turn the page – oh, there is that story back again. It seems that when Teflon Tone said white was white on that occasion, what he meant was, um, the opposite. Read the rest of this entry »
October 22, 2008
It takes roughly twice as long to travel from Sydney to London via Washington as it does to fly directly eastbound. I could have been home in Oxford in about half of the 30 or so hours of travelling time involved in the long hop across the International Date Line, the arrival in Los Angeles five hours before I left Sydney, the run between terminals at LAX, the airborne cattle truck which took me across the USA, the flog into Washington from Dulles Airport and, two days later, the red-eye back to London. It also cost me a fair amount of money.
The main draw was a keynote speech by US Magistrate Judge John Facciola at the Masters Conference in Washington. There was plenty else worth being at the Masters Conference for, but this was why I came. It was worth it. Read the rest of this entry »
October 22, 2008
This is a report of a speech given by US Magistrate Judge John Facciola at the Masters Conference in Washington on 17 October 2008. Its theme was leadership. Whatever view UK lawyers and judges may take about US litigation discovery, this thoughtful survey has much of value for a UK audience
Judge Facciola began by holding up FDR (for you Brits, that is Franklin D Roosevelt, the architect of the New Deal in the Depression of the 1930s) as the model for leadership. He went on to give us one modern-day example of fine leadership, and several where leadership was seriously lacking. Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2008
The parties are gathered for a Case Management Conference. It has been the diary for some time, and no-one is in any doubt as to the time, date, place or nature of the business to be discussed. The summons is passed across to the judge. There is a purely technical defect on its face. Go away, says the judge, and come back when you are properly ready to present the application to the court.
Did you hear my scream when I was told that story last night? Perhaps I managed to suppress it, biting my knuckles to prevent it echoing round Aldgate.
I will not tell you who it was or what level of judge he was since it is the attitude which I am attacking not the person. I have not looked up whether the point at issue is in fact a requirement nor what the penalty is – let us assume that it is required and that a spell in the Tower is the usual punishment, so that the parties were lucky to be sent away with nothing but a wasted morning, a few thousand pounds in lost costs and a delay in getting the case moving. What does this do for the overriding objective? Read the rest of this entry »
October 19, 2008
The purpose of the e-Disclosure Information Project is to assimilate and disseminate information about electronic discovery / disclosure. As you may conclude from my silence on this site for a fortnight, I have been doing more assimilating and less dissemination recently. Apart from one article part-drafted on the floor at dawn between flights at Kuala Lumpur airport, my output has been zero. The inputs, however, are considerable, and it will take a while to record them all. This article is a summary which will be followed by more specific articles. Its theme is collaboration between the thought-leaders in those common law jurisdictions which rely on the exchange of electronic documents in the search for justice.
KL was a staging-post en route for Sydney, where I was booked to speak at the Ark Group conference Preparing your Organisation for eDiscovery. From there I flew to Washington for the Masters Conference. My subject in Sydney was Responsibility for electronic disclosure, which surveyed every level from the state’s duty to provide an efficient forum for commercial disputes down to the individual duties of lawyers, clients and judges to manage cases and the documents needed as evidence in them. The main draw in Washington was a keynote speech by US Magistrate Judge John Facciola which took the same theme to a very much higher level, as I will report separately. Read the rest of this entry »
October 4, 2008
The Vikings brought with them some habits which were deplored by their hosts, but they also brought technology which we turned to our advantage. We do not much like some of the practices in US civil courts, but we can certainly use the technology which has been honed in them
On 8 June 793, the first Viking long-ships appeared off the coast of Britain – “ravages of heathen men” said the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, which had recently predicted some such cataclysm. The Vikings did a bit of raping and pillaging and pushed off home. The next year they were back, but were beaten off, retiring hurt with their leader dead, many drowned in a storm and others killed on landing.
Their technology, particularly in ship-building, was way ahead of its time, and improved rapidly to reflect the experience of the sailors and as an aid to the rough and tumble of their work. Not only were the ships able to face the roughest storms, but they had shallow draughts and were light enough to carry, both useful developments which were enhanced to cope with their raids. Nor were their victims an uncivilised and impoverished race – the visitors would hardly have bothered to keep coming back if they had not hoped to profit from it and, however attractive the ladies of the North-East, their charms hardly warranted a risky annual journey. Read the rest of this entry »