The specialist financial list will be established in the High Court for claims worth £50m or more, the Lord Chief Justice confirmed yesterday – despite lobbying from City solicitors to set the lower limit at £10m.
In his address to the annual Mansion House dinner for Her Majesty’s judges, Lord Thomas said the jurisdiction will include provision for an “innovative” test case procedure, the aim of which will be to facilitate the resolution of market issues on which there is no previous authoritative English precedent.
He said the list would promote access to the courts and the expertise of trial judges, “for market actors in an area that is of significant importance to the development of both the domestic economy, and to open markets internationally”.
Further, he said with the test case procedure in mind, the list would help to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation, “through providing a mechanism for authoritative guidance before disputes have arisen”.
Lord Thomas continued: “I hope that this initiative will promote the rule of law both nationally and internationally. At the national level it does so for the reasons I have already outlined. At the international level it does so through acting as a beacon. The courts and the judiciary of this jurisdiction are widely respected throughout the world, for their expertise, knowledge of the markets, their incorruptibility and their independence.
“The new financial list – embodying these virtues – will set an international benchmark. The new list will not only encourage international litigants to continue to use our courts, the principles they embody and their jurisprudence, but in doing so they will help to raise standards. Setting the bar high here will help to raise the bar high across the world.”
In its response to the judiciary’s consultation on the new list, the litigation committee of the City of London Law Society said that the £10m threshold over which costs budgeting does not automatically apply might be the “more appropriate limit”.
Meanwhile, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson has lengthened the hear-by dates for cases to be heard by the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) for all cases filed after 31 July.
Depending on the type of case and the point at which permission to appeal was granted, the new hear-by dates range from two to 19 months. The longest under the current dates is nine months.
Lord Dyson said the revisions were necessary “for the efficient management of the work of the court”. While there has been a 67% increase in permission to appeal applications since the last practice note was issued in 2003, with a “smaller rise” in appeal hearings, the judicial resources of the Court of Appeal have not materially changed, he said.
“The practice guidance will thus reflect the reality of the demands of the court and its ability to ensure cases are heard in as timely a manner as possible… Cases have been ranked in order of priority, and the court will continue to make sure that urgent matters are expedited and all business is conducted as swiftly as possible.”