Supreme Court President discusses the new role of UK judges for the first time in Manchester

The Supreme Court is the highest Court in the UK, and the last domestic court that civil complainants can appeal to.  Manchester Law Society invited its president, Lord Neuberger, to talk about the role of the civil trial judge.

Theresa Fenton, Insolvency and Litigation specialist at Birchall Blackburn Law had the privilege of attending.  She said:

“I was honoured to listen to this historical lecture, where Lord Neuberger provided a fascinating insight into the changing role of the civil trial judge.  The judicial role is constantly evolving, particularly in light of legal and procedural changes in recent years.  The changing role was eloquently and insightfully reflected upon.”

During his speech, Lord Neuberger tackled the issue of the relatively small number of cases that go to appeal.  This is in direct contrast to Europe, where appeals are carried out almost as a matter of course.  His view was that the system in the United Kingdom minimises both stress and costs for the parties.

Lord Neuberger emphasised that Appeal Courts should rarely overturn a trial judge’s decision on the application of Civil Procedure Rules, nor interfere with the trial judge’s findings of fact. He noted that the Supreme Court had recently overturned decisions of the Court of Appeal (where there  had  been interference with the trial judge’s findings of fact).

Lord Neuberger also touched on the specialisation of Judges.  He felt that this should not go too far in order to allow expertise to be shared between different areas of law.

“The cost of litigation must always be proportionate”

Lord Neuberger remarked on the cost of litigation, along with the Woolf and Jackson reforms.  He felt that trial judges had a key role to play if this was to be achieved, stating:

“The philosophy behind Woolf and Jackson is that pre-trial procedures and hearings need to be controlled to achieve the end.  This results in judges becoming more involved, becoming case managers both before and during the trial to minimise cost and delay.”

He noted that the judge is now notably more involved in the case, whilst offering an interesting summary of the changes to the judicial role over the past 60 years.  (Judges of the past took a detached role – merely maintaining order and giving a view at the end of the case).

At Birchall Blackburn Law, we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with the latest legal thinking.  We support and agree with Lord Neuberger, that the proportionality of costs is key to ensure justice is accessible and neither a financial nor emotional drain on both parties.  This is why you can rely on us to seek mediation, negotiation and collaboration first.

For straightforward advice from our expert Litigation team, contact us on 0800 614 722 or 0333 3212192.