Justice Outside London: Deployment out of London of Chancery and Queen’s Bench Division Judges for civil work


  1. There are at present Chancery Supervising Judges for each of the Northern and Southern parts of the jurisdiction excluding London and the South-Eastern circuit. The Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster (Patten J) is responsible for chancery work to the North (broadly the Northern and North Eastern Circuits), and Lewison J is responsible for chancery work in the South (the Midland, Wales and Chester and Western Circuits). Each of these judges spends approximately half of their judicial sitting time at court centres within their province. The times when and the places where they sit are arranged well in advance, so that regional listing officers are able to arrange lists of appropriate cases for them to hear. Their lists are co-ordinated with those of specialist Chancery Circuit judges. Specialist Chancery Circuit judges sit at Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the North, and at Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol, to the South. The Chancery Supervising Judges have broad oversight of the specialist Chancery circuit judges and take an interest in the Mercantile and TCC specialist Circuit judges.
  2. We recommend no changes for the two Chancery Supervising Judges, other than the withdrawal of the word “supervising” from their title. Preferences for one title rather than another often cause disproportionate debate. Our suggestion may appear cosmetic only. But experienced specialist circuit judges do not require supervision and there are sensitivities as to the relevant responsibilities of presiding judges. What the specialist judges may need is support in a number of respects. We consider that they should be able to find that support from a number of other judges depending on the kind of support needed, unconstrained by a rigid hierarchy (see below).
  3. The sitting arrangements for the two Chancery Division Liaison Judges (as we diffidently suggest they might be called) work well and should not be disturbed. The one minor qualification, identified by HH Judge Norris QC in Birmingham and echoed in general terms elsewhere, is that the sitting dates should be known to those responsible for listing sufficiently in advance for appropriate lists to be constructed, and that, for Birmingham at least, six months is too short. Patten J’s itinerary for the whole of 2007 was fixed in April 2006, which must be satisfactory except perhaps for the very early months of the year.
  4. There are at present no equivalent Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges. We recommend that there should be. At present Queen’s Bench judges go on circuit mainly to try crime. They are also from time to time deployed to hear civil cases out of London. The mechanism of deployment of civil cases is part of that for crime, that is, that the Presiding Judges bid for these judges as part of their termly request. We would not dislocate this, so that, for example, the North Eastern Circuit could continue to bid for High Court judges to be part of their back to back civil listing periods. But it has two disadvantages. First, the circuit bids are not always accepted; and second, the High Court judges deployed to try civil cases are usually withdrawn to London if the list collapses. The judges are not in any sense “resident” and their presence is not assured.
  5. Our first reason for recommending two Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges to operate in tandem with the Chancery Division liaison judges is that, if our recommendation for regional Administrative Court centres is accepted and implemented, it will be necessary for nominated Administrative Court High Court judges to sit in Manchester and Leeds in the North and in Cardiff and Birmingham to the South. There will thus be “specialist” Queen’s Bench Division work in these regions which can be covered by a replication in principle (although not necessarily in detail) of the sitting arrangements of the Chancery Division judges. The first call on the Queen’s Bench Division judge’s sitting time would be Administrative Court work, sitting for instance at Manchester or Leeds in the North (or at other centres if appropriate) to a pre-arranged sitting pattern to enable the Administrative Court cases to be securely listed. Co-ordination between the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Division judges should see that they would between them cover the province appropriately. The Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge would not be withdrawn if the Administrative Court cases settled, but would be available to take cases from a back up list, which could be from any of the Queen’s Bench High Court list, the Mercantile list or the TCC list. Indeed, if there is insufficient Administrative Court work, the Queen’s Bench Division judge could be listed for work from these other lists in the first place. But the back up arrangement would not dislocate pre-existing listing for specialist circuit judges. Co-ordination by Regional Listing Co-ordinators between the circuits should see that the judge’s sitting time is most appropriately used in the province. If a list collapsed in Manchester and the judge was most appropriately deployed to Leeds or Sheffield, that could with co-operation be arranged. We have described this proposed outline arrangement with reference to the North, but the same applies to the Southern province, including but not exclusively limited to Cardiff and Birmingham.
  6. The Queen’s Bench Division liaison judges will need to be judges nominated to the Administrative Court. This does not absolutely preclude the judges also being Commercial Court judges, just as Commercial Court judges are from time to time currently Presiding Judges.
  7. We have described outline arrangements for one Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge in each province and the description has rather supposed that he or she would be out of London in their province for about half of their total sitting time. This may well prove to be insufficient. If it does, the liaison judges could possibly be deployed to their province for more than half their time; or, preferably we think, a second QB judge nominated to the Administrative Court would be deployed to the province on a pre-arranged co-ordinated sitting pattern. The principle would be that there should be deployed the number of judges required to hear civil and Administrative cases out of London which required to be heard by a High Court judge. On this basis and assuming that the volume of work justified it, there would be at least one QB judge deployed to hear civil cases in each province for all or most of the legal terms in addition to the deployment of the Chancery Division liaison judges. That would not in literal terms constitute a “resident” High Court judge, but it should be a distinct improvement on the present position. If it might appear a somewhat meagre response to currently expressed regional aspirations, we have to have an eye to practical constraints described earlier in this report.
  8. As we have indicated earlier, we recommend that at least three circuit judges are nominated and appropriately trained to deal with Administrative Court cases at each of the four centres. Their sittings can then be arranged in co-ordination with those of the Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge to ensure that the judicial business of the Administrative Court in the regions is covered. We anticipate that the circuit judges would between them undertake the majority of paper applications, including AIT Opt-in applications made regionally. They should where appropriate have sitting time listed for this purpose. They would also hear judicial review cases which do not require a full High Court judge. The nominated Queen’s Bench judge or judges would be listed to hear those cases which do require a full High Court judge. The Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge would have general oversight of the Administrative Court lists in co-ordination with one of the nominated circuit judges identified for that purpose. Thus the regional structure for Chancery work would be replicated.
  9. There are Designated Civil Judges in all the civil court centres to which this report has referred and in other centres as well. They are responsible for case management of general civil non-specialist work including Queen’s Bench High Court cases.
  10. There are specialist Mercantile judges in Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol to the South; and in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the North. There is also the London Mercantile Court reconstituted by recent amendments to CPR rule 59 and its Practice Direction. This discussion does not affect that court.
  11. There are specialist TCC judges in each of these centres and also in Chester, Exeter, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield. There is also a TCC nominated judge at Winchester, but there is as yet little TCC work there. The TCC judges are supported by the Judge in Charge of the TCC in London (Jackson J). Support for the Mercantile judges is more variable and some of them at least would appreciate better identified and greater practical support. We understand that some of them on occasions and some other Specialist Circuit judges feel somewhat isolated and from time to time under pressure which current support and communication appears unable to achieve. There are various sensitivities which include those expressed by some Presiding Judges and the present Senior Presiding Judge (Leveson LJ) that we should not recommend a diluting increase in judicial supervisory responsibility.
  12. Insofar as this does not happen already, we recommend that the listing of all High Court and specialist civil cases at each centre should be co-ordinated under the same administration and preferably in the same place. As has been demonstrated in those centres where this already happens, this facilitates back up listing of cases between specialist judges and with a High Court judge if one is available.
  13. We have already indicated that we do not believe that Specialist Circuit judges or Designated Civil judges should require hierarchical supervision. Rather they may welcome support and cohesion. We do not believe that the support requires a formalised structure and we are not in a business which requires line managers. Support should be available from whoever is on the occasion the most appropriate supporter. Specialist Circuit judges in the regions may sometimes want a line of supportive communication with higher judiciary, and it should be useful for specialist matters to have a first port of call.
  14. We have indicated our view that in each province the Chancery Division liaison judge and the Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge should co-ordinate to operate in tandem with their own sitting patterns. They should also, we think, provide in tandem and in conjunction with the presiding judges appropriate support for the specialist judges and the Designated Civil judges. In so far as it may be necessary to do so, specialist Chancery circuit judges would obviously continue to look on specialist matters to the Chancery Division liaison judge as their first port of call; and the Designated Civil judges to the Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge. Likewise we think on balance that the specialist Mercantile judges should look to the Chancery Division liaison judge and that the Specialist TCC judges should look to the Queen’s Bench Division liaison judge, without in this instance severing the present connection with the Judge in Charge of the TCC in London. On other appropriate matters, the line of communication would be to the Presiding Judge. We would not be rigorously prescriptive. As at present, a system of co-operation will work. We think that our recommendation would improve the present arrangements.