Costs News

26 November 2015
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Costs Lawyers keen to become delegated judicial officers

Costs Lawyers are ready and willing to become delegated judicial officers (DJOs) and take on responsibility for mainly routine functions currently performed by judges in relation to costs, the ACL has said.

Responding to Lord Justice Briggs’ Civil Courts Structure Review, the ACL said the proposal to make much greater use than currently of DJOs was a good one “which our members are keen to support as a way of improving the quality and efficiency of the costs regime”.

However, the association cautioned that there would need to be investment to ensure the robust selection, supervision and review of DJOs. DJOs would not be judges themselves, but their performance of low-level judicial functions would be under judicial supervision and subject to litigants’ rights of review by a judge.

The ACL said: “We support the broad principle that qualified and regulated legal professionals with expertise in particular areas of the law should be considered for appointment as DJOs to deal with matters within those specialist areas.

“Our members are particularly interested in this proposal, as they see themselves as ideally suited to perform the more routine, simple functions currently performed by costs judges. Our members have different levels of qualification and experience in all aspects of the costs environment. More importantly, they have chosen to specialise in costs as their area of expertise. Therefore, they are passionate about the subject.

“Too often, we hear reports of district judges who have no interest in costs and that lack of interest follows through to the decisions made.

“Furthermore, Costs Lawyers have a breadth of experience across the wide range of areas in which our solicitor clients practice. Subject to training and supervision, there is no reason why suitably qualified Costs Lawyers could not be given general case management powers.

“We are conscious of the fact that to utilise Costs Lawyers in this way may be considered a radical step, but would venture to suggest it is no more radical than some of the other reforms being contemplated. It would, in our opinion, be a step in the right direction to creating a fairer and more efficient costs environment.”

The ACL also suggested that Costs Lawyers' experience in case management is such that they would be well placed to take on a broader role as DJOs dealing with matters beyond costs.

The ACL said DJOs should have authority to resolve live issues, but that their authority to do so should be subject to training and to supervision and review. Supervision could be by a panel of regional costs judges, it added.

On other issues raised by the review, the ACL broadly supported the introduction of online courts – also recommending the inclusion of conciliation as part of the process – and said any restructuring of the civil courts, including the possible unification of the county court and High Court, should be delayed until the impact of DJOs and the online court could be assessed.

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