Judges on the North Eastern Circuit may become more active at the pre-trial stage, following the appointment of Mr Justice Hooper as the new presiding judge.
Hooper is one of four presiding judges appointed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor last month.
He said the appointment came as a bolt out of the blue, which he greeted with "a mixture of excitement and trepidation" - trepidation at the amount of work involved and excitement at returning to Newcastle, where he taught in the Sixties.
Hooper, who succeeds Mr Justice Holland, is noted for his work for the Bar Council on reform of the criminal justice system and on education.
He believes that judges should take a more interventionist pre-trial role in both civil and criminal cases, a position he envisages implementing on his circuit.
The Midland & Oxford Circuit appointment went to Mr Justice Jowitt. He replaces Mr Justice Judge who has been promoted to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Gage succeeds Mr Justice Blofeld as presiding judge of the South Eastern Circuit and Mr Justice Butterfield replaces Mr Justice Mantell as presiding judge of the Western Circuit.
The appointments last for four years from 1 January 1997, with the exception of Mr Justice Jowitt who takes up his post from June this year.