‘Straightforward’ applications for time extensions, served within time, are not subject to the principles set out in Mitchell, Lord Justice Jackson has ruled.
In his first Court of Appeal ruling relating to his reforms, Jackson LJ said: “An application for an extension of the time allowed to take any particular step in litigation is not an application for relief from sanctions, provided that the applicant files his application notice before expiry of the permitted time period.
“This is the case even if the court deals with that application after the expiry of the relevant period.”
He approved Mr Justice Nugee’s recent ruling that made the same point.
He emphasised that it was not the intention of his report to stop parties agreeing reasonable extensions of time, “which neither imperil hearing dates nor otherwise disrupt the proceedings”, nor to stop courts granting them.
Jackson LJ was ruling in Hallam Estates and another v Baker  EWCA Civ 661, a libel dispute, where the application for extension for filing points of dispute was in time on the last day allowed, but Senior Court Costs Office staff did not date-stamp the application until the following day. This was “immaterial”, he said, referring to rule 23.5
Jackson LJ also made it clear that he backs the ‘buffer’ direction, an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules allowing the parties to agree time extensions of up to 28 days without seeking permission from the courts. The change will come into force on 5 June.
He said: “A variety of circumstances may arise in which one or other party (however diligent) may require a modest extension of time. Under rule 1.3 the parties have a duty to help the court in furthering the overriding objective.
“The overriding objective includes allotting an appropriate share of the court’s resources to an individual case. Therefore legal representatives are not in breach of any duty to their client, when they agree to a reasonable extension of time which neither imperils future hearing dates nor otherwise disrupts the conduct of the litigation.
“On the contrary, by avoiding the need for a contested application they are furthering the overriding objective and also saving costs for the benefit of their own client.”
In Hallam, the costs judge granted the time extension on the papers and then rejected an application from the defendant to set this aside and issue a default costs certificate. However, His Honour Judge Richardson QC granted an appeal, ruling that the application for an extension of time was issued out of time. Therefore the claimants were seeking relief from sanctions and the costs judge erred in granting it, he decided.
Overturning HHJ Richardson QC’s decision, Lord Justice Jackson said the costs judge had dealt with the application in line with the overriding objective, as recently amended. He described the claimants’ application as a “straightforward application to extend time” under CPR 3.1 (2)(a).
He said the claimants had made a “reasonable application for extension of time, which did not imperil any future hearing dates or otherwise disrupt the proceedings”.
Lord Justices Lewison and Christopher Clarke agreed.