BCCI group proposes two-day limit on opening arguments

The BCCI working party announced that long trials should have statements of case limited but on the whole said the current civil procedure rules are already sufficient.


The BCCI working party today (6 December) announced that long trials should have statements of case limited but on the whole said the current civil procedure rules (CPR) are already sufficient.

The working party was set up last January following criticism of excesses such as Gordon Pollock QC’s 80-day opening statement in the BCCI supercase.

The report recommended that statements of case should not exceed 25 pages in length without permission of the court and that no two-party trial, however complex, should be listed for more than 13 weeks.

The report proposed that opening arguments should not exceed 50 pages and two days. The two-day limit should also be imposed for oral closing arguments with the court directing on a page limit for written closing arguments.

The recommendations put by the working party, which was chaired by Mr Justice Aikens, have been adopted by the Commercial Court Judges and the Committee of Users of the Commercial Court.

The long-awaited report also proposed there should be a judicially settled List of Issues. The list would take case management precedence over statements of case and be used to set the parameters for disclosure of documents, content of witness statements and expert reports.

The party also felt that introduction of daily Court fees would put the court at a significant disadvantage so instead recommended that the court should be prepared to make a summary assessment of costs where the total costs claimed was £250,000 or less.

Aikens J said that such cases highlighted the need for the Commercial Court to look carefully at its procedures to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant.

“Many of our proposals have been designed specifically to ensure that cases remain manageable not just for judges but also, critically, for clients who rightly feel that aspects of the process of heavy and complex litigation have become too expensive and drawn out,” explained Aikens.

Mr Justice David Steel said that the working party’s proposals received unanimous support from the Commercial Court Users’ Committee and that judges will be implementing them for a trial period from 1 February 2008 to 31 July 2008.

“Although we recognise that the full benefit of the new arrangements may take some time to come through in the longer cases for which they have been designed, the Commercial Court Judges will nonetheless be reviewing how the reforms have operated in the trial period,” said Steel J.

“That should put us in the best possible position to make the necessary changes and refinements to the Commercial Court Guide in the run up to completion of the new custom-built accommodation for the Commercial Court in 2010.”