Docketing depends on an effective process for the allocation and distribution of cases. At Leeds that includes a system of ‘own listing’ and judicial specialisation which appear to bring additional benefits but are not key to docketing
The administrative staff are the key players in ensuring a docketed case gets back to the right judge at the right time
Leeds’ system of docketing builds on an informal system operated for a number of years. In that sense the ‘working culture’ at Leeds allowed for its smooth introduction as a formal case management mechanism.
Basing the docketing pilot on previous informal practice has meant that docketing has been introduced in a relatively light touch sense in that it attached to district judges alone and includes only pre trial case management not the trial itself.
To include circuit judges within an effective docketing system would require much more fundamental change.
Practitioners did not see it as necessarily beneficial that the pre trial judge and the trial judge should be the same person.
The district judges have been able to reflect on a number of advantages brought through docketing:
Satisfaction in bringing a case to settlement or trial
Greater opportunity to steer the case and check its progress
More consistent case management
Less ‘forum shopping’ or opportunities to mislead the judge
Potential for time to be saved in preparation and at trial.
At Leeds, a larger court centre, there was no discernible loss of flexibility or inefficient deployment of resources caused by docketing. Small court centres may find that docketing reduces flexibility
There have been no significant financial implications to Leeds to run the abbreviated docketing scheme.
During the relatively short pilot period there was no clear perception from the judiciary that docketing would or did reduce costs but cases were managed better and were better prepared for trial.
Local practitioners had not perceived a difference in costs to date though there was a perception that ultimately fewer management hearings might be necessary.
The abbreviated docketing pilot brought advantages using existing resources and without major reorganisation. There is little to prevent its adoption in larger court centres other than the potential reluctance attached to a change in working cultures.