Lord Justice Jackson's Review of Civil Litigation Costs and the Family Justice Review chaired by David Norgrove both identified the need for greater docketing of cases and for more judicial continuity. The two phrases have the same meaning, although in this Guidance the word "docketing" is generally used when referring to both the civil and family jurisdictions.
Both the present and past Presidents of the Family Division have emphasised the need for greater judicial continuity in the handling of both public and private family law cases. With effect from 1st April 2013 the Master of the Rolls is introducing a docketing system in civil cases.
This Guidance is being made available to the judiciary and has been agreed with the Master of the Rolls and the President of the Family Division.
This Guidance is intended to apply in both the civil and family jurisdictions in all county courts and district registries in England and Wales. It does not apply to High Court work being conducted at the Royal Courts of Justice in any of the three Divisions. However, it is hoped that listing officers would be able, for instance, to ensure that a section 9 judge would be available at his / her home court to hear a consequential relief application following a sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice.
In relation to civil cases, the effect of a docketing system is that the interim case management of a complex case will be conducted by the one judge. In the family jurisdiction, judicial continuity will ensure the identification of the judge and/or case manager responsible for the conduct of all case management and interim hearings as well as the early identification of the judge or bench to conduct the final hearing.
There are many benefits to be achieved through docketing. Only one judge need read the case papers. It is easier to identify the relevant issues in the case. The judicial control exercised over a case is firmer; the case management is more consistent. Practitioners and other court users have repeatedly said that they prefer repeat interim applications to be heard by the same judge.
Experience has also shown that judges to whom cases are docketed accept a greater responsibility for the speedy timetabling of cases. The progress of cases is checked and urgent applications can be heard in a timely manner.
The Guidance is available to download here.