The appointment of The Hon. Mr. Justice Peter Kelly as President of the High Court was inevitably going to result in changes being made to the existing High Court List. As most readers will be aware Judge Kelly, the first judge appointed to oversee the Commercial Court, was personally responsible for driving forward efficiencies and good practice in the Commercial Court. Most practitioners would share the view that some of the lessons learned in the Commercial Court would benefit the wider High Court system.
Two new Statutory Instruments, SI 254 (Conduct of Trials) and SI 255 (Case Management), will come into effect on 1 October 2016, which introduce significant changes to existing High Court procedures. They are clearly aimed at ensuring time and cost efficiencies and will have a significant impact on how cases proceed before the High Court.
SI 254 of 2016 - Rules of the Superior Courts (Conduct of Trials)
These rules will confer on the court powers to:
assist in managing time at trial;
regulate the adducing of expert evidence and the duties of expert witnesses;
deal with disclosure by non-parties; and
the appointment of assessors to assist the court.
SI 255 of 2016 - Rules of the Superior Courts (Chancery and Non-Jury Actions and Other Designated Proceedings: Pre-Trial Procedures) 2016
This SI introduces Order 63C to the Rules of the Superior Courts and relates to Chancery and Non-Jury matters only.
It provides specified/new pre-trial procedures in relation to materials to be prepared/lodged and for pre trial conferences. Furthermore, a case will now only be listed for hearing if a Judge has certified that it is ready for hearing.
Whilst the spirit of these Rules is clearly to improve and encourage more focussed and efficient hearings, it will inevitably place an increased burden on Plaintiffs' solicitors and will require an increased level of co-ordination and co-operation between the parties. There will be an increase in costs associated with the additional obligations but it is hoped that this will be counterbalanced by a saving in trial costs if a matter subsequently proceeds in a more focussed way following these pre-trial interventions.