Bilateral meeting with judges in France goes virtual

Commercial CourtInternational

Senior judges from England and Wales and France met virtually to exchange their experiences of working during the current pandemic.

They discussed the impact of lockdown on the running of courts and the lessons each jurisdiction would be taking away for the resolution of business disputes in the future.

The online discussion, which took place on 9 July, was co-chaired by the Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Geoffrey Vos (centre picture).

The Chancellor, along with two other judges, had been due to travel to Paris in May 2020. It follows on from two weeks spent in Business and Property Courts in the Rolls Building, London, last year by Judge Francois Ancel, the President of the International Chamber of the Cour d’Appel.

In their virtual meeting, the judges shared the different ways the two jurisdictions had managed the impact of lockdown on the running of the courts. The French experience, initially one of essential litigation only and where all other cases had to be postponed, was shared by a number of judges from both appellate and first instance level. This was compared to the England and Wales experience where having an e-filing system in place, along with an established use of videoconferencing facilities, made the transition smoother, but not without its challenges.

The conversation also examined the route ahead. “We need to capitalise on experiences, but that doesn’t mean we need to change the whole system,” said one judge, while another said ‘a lot has been learnt’ from the challenges of the pandemic. All agreed that one positive change was that the legal community as a whole had become more ‘tolerant’ around technology.

The Chancellor said of the event: “The warmth of the engagement was remarkable”, and it is something they hope will be repeated soon online, if not in person.