District judge chief: we can handle provisional assessment

Godwin: docketed judge should be more than capable of performing PA

The introduction of docketing should mean that judges are “more than capable” of handling provisional assessment (PA), the new president of the Association of District Judges has said.

Meanwhile, Litigation Futures has divined some explanation for the shock trebling of the PA limit from £25,000 in the pilot phase to £75,000 for the roll-out this week, which specialists warn will catch a lot of bills.

Costs Lawyer, the magazine of the Association of Costs Lawyers, asked District Judge Harold Godwin about district judges’ readiness for PA, especially those who are not regional costs judges.

He said: “One of the objectives of the Jackson reforms is that cases should be case managed and tried, wherever possible, by the same judge (or a team of judges, ie circuit judge and district judge). For cases issued after 1 April, the judge will perform the cost budgeting exercise, which will set the parameters for the final bill in any event. Accordingly, the docketed judges will have a handle on the costs from the outset of the proceedings.

“In gaining that handle, the degree of complexity in any given case will have been apparent. The docketed judge should then be more than capable of performing the PA. If he considers that it should be referred to a costs judge, then he could still do so.

“If the PA is undertaken by the docketed judge, then he will have the benefit of the points of dispute, replies etc, through which both/all parties will have opportunity to explain any complex issues. The explanation will, I anticipate, likely to be fuller than might presently be prepared where an oral hearing is anticipated.

“If the parties’ don’t agree the PA, then they can still call for an oral hearing but on risk of the penalties imposed by the rules as to costs.”

Though there has not been an official explanation for the change in the PA limit, Litigation Futures understands that in the pilot – where the limit was £25,000 in base costs – in practice additional liabilities were also being considered, which meant the total costs being considered were often £60-75,000.

Because costs of this level were being considered at PA without problems, the rule committee decided that the overall limit should be increased to £75,000. The new rule does not mention base costs.