Court of Appeal hits quiet patch with slump in cases

The Court of Appeal was significantly quieter in 2004 than in 2003, but the House of Lords was as busy as ever, according to figures from the bar’s top sets.

Research carried out for The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report shows that the number of appearances in the Court of Appeal by barristers at the top 30 sets dropped dramatically last year.

Commercial set 39 Essex Street, which topped last year’s table with 175 appearances, visited the Court of Appeal only 121 times this year. Birmingham’s St Philips, one of the UK’s biggest sets, appeared 85 times in the Court of Appeal in 2004-05, compared with 124 times the previous year.

Public and human rights law were inevitably to be the key to the Lords as Blackstone Chambers topped the list for the second successive year. Buoyed by cases such as the “designer baby” case of Quintavalle v Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, Blackstone members turned up in the Lords 28 times – with a total of 40 barristers involved.

The Lawyer’s Chambers of the Year 2005 Matrix had a record number of cases in both courts. The set appeared 76 times in the Court of Appeal and 21 times in the Lords, with multiple barristers involved in several cases.

Matrix’s high point came in December 2004, when Ben Emmerson QC, Rabinder Singh QC and junior Raza Husain appeared in the Lords in the landmark Belmarsh case against the Government’s policy on detaining terrorist suspects.

The figures indicate that the Woolf reforms, which have already been successful in reducing the amount of claims running to trial in the High Court, are now starting to have an impact on the workflow in the Court of Appeal.

Most appearances in the House of Lords 2004
Rank Rank 2003 Firm No of appearances 2004 No of appearances 2003
1 1 Blackstone Chambers 29 22
2 4 Matrix Chambers 21 15
3 2 39 Essex Street 20 20
4 Essex Court Chambers 16 2
5 Brick Court 11 7
Source: The Lawyer

Most appearances in the Court of Appeal 2004
Rank Rank 2003 Firm No of appearances 2004 No of appearances 2003
1 1 39 Essex Street 121 175
2 2 St Philip’s 85 124
3 20 Essex Street 80 50
4 4 Blackstone Chambers 78 72
5 5 Matrix Chambers 76 72
Source: The Lawyer