Thursday, July 24, 2008

Solicitor sues the court!

There is an interesting news article in the Law Society Gazette today about a solicitor who is so fed up by the appalling service provided by the Central London County court (CLCC) that he is bringing a claim in the High Court! The claim is for a judicial review to force the CLCC to list a landlord and tenant claim for hearing. The writ claims that "neither letters to the court, nor telephone calls, nor even a letter written under the Judicial Review pre-action protocol copied to the Official Solicitor .. have produced any action."

Of course if you know the court system, you will know that sending a letter is often worse than useless. As things are dealt with in strict rotation, you will receive a reply to your letter of complaint, several weeks after the original problem has been resolved, telling you that it has been resolved (which of course you already knew!). The only way to find anything out is to ring the court, where normally (and invariably for the London Courts) you will have to wait in a queue for hours. Most solicitors do not have time for this.

In the Gazette article, the courts service is quoted as saying that the number of complaints to the courts are down. The reason for this is probably that most people, in the legal profession anyway, have given up complaining as they know it will be no use.

The real reason for all the problems in the courts is of course chronic underfunding. Some courts, I understand, cannot afford to use Deputy District Judges at all, which is why cases are taking so long to be dealt with. They cannot afford to pay good wages to their staff, which is why all the good staff are leaving or have left, and those who take their place are mostly unqualified and untrained. Dealing with the listing of cases is a nightmare anyway, what with having to deal with witness availability on both sides, and it becomes impossible where there are not enough Judges to hear the claims. I feel very sorry for County Court managers and am devoutly glad that it is not me having to do it!

Incidentally, I did give some suggestions for county court fundraising in an earlier post.

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1 comment:

William Flack said...

I agree with you that Courts Service is providing an appalling service and that the main reason that complaints are down is that people have given up complaining.

I had a look at your suggestions for fund raising. I don't want to be negative but judging by the quality of the letters I receive from the Courts I don't think that they could produce proper newsletters. I for one would not be prepred to pay £250.00 for an annual subscription even if they could. Equally I don't think that the guided tours would get much interest. The business centre idea though is excellent. If the courts were to rent out certain parts of their buildings and provide facilities for lawyers for meeting clients this would be a very useful service which I would definitely be happy to pay for.

At the end of the day though I do think that the government should be funding the Courts so that they can provide an adequate service. The maintenance of a civil justice system as well as law and order in the criminal sense is key government function.