(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Moses, Richards LJJ; 9 June 2010)
An application for family provision by the deceased's cohabitant, with whom the deceased had children. The estate sought permission to appeal decision by district judge and stay of award. The agreed time estimate for the permission hearing was one hour to encompass permission, stay and directions. An automatic directions appointment provided for by the rules. The skeleton position statement extended to 52 pages and the judge's reading list extended to 200 pages. The claimants questioned the time estimate and the judge telephoned the leading counsel and made it plain that it was completely unrealistic and that the hearing would need to be put last on the list. The parties reached agreement between them as to the future management of the case. The judge awarded half of the hearing costs to claimants because of the estate's lack of realism.
The Court expressed misgivings as to the wisdom of the judge contacting counsel by telephone which was not good practice because there was no record of the exchange; it was clearly preferable for the judge to have sent an email. However, there was nothing in the transcript to support the estate's submission that the judge behaved in a biased way during the hearing.
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