Lord Woolf’s proposed reforms of the civil justice system are doomed to failure and, far from improving civil justice, will make things significantly worse, according to a leading legal academic.
Speaking at the Chancery Bar Association’s spring lecture on Monday, Michael Zander QC, professor of law at the London School of Economics, delivered a scathing attack on Lord Woolf’s report Access to Justice, in a speech he said was directed principally at the new Lord Chancellor.
Zander argued the proposal to make lawyers adhere to tight deadlines “defied reality” and would inevitably lead to the application of “wholly disproportionate sanctions”.
He also condemned the proposal to make judges responsible for case management, saying research on a similar US system had shown it increased the costs of civil litigation.
Zander argued that lawyers, rather than judges, knew what was in the best interests of a case and that judicial case management would result in uncontrolled judicial discretion and inconsistent decisions.
“In so far as it cuts down on delay, the reduction will either be relatively minor, or, if it is great, may be at the expense of justice,” he added.
In conclusion, he said: “I believe that implementation of the Woolf project is doomed to failure, and will actually make things significantly worse.”
He called on the new Lord Chancellor to consider his arguments and cautioned him to proceed “very slowly and very cautiously” rather than just thoughtlessly blundering ahead.