Practice Direction On Case Management
Practice Direction No. 6, entitled “Practice Direction On Case Management For First Instance Proceedings” and dated 22 October 2013 forms part of and does not replace or vary the Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2007, which must still be followed in all cases. The Practice Direction and Standard Directions supplement the existing Rules, and apply to all first instance proceedings certified by the Tribunal as showing a case to answer after 25 October 2013.
Paragraph 2 of the Practice Direction states the SDT’s Overriding Objective when managing cases, namely to ensure that they are dealt with justly. The Practice Direction and supporting Standard Directions are intended to give clear guidance to parties, their representatives, and the wider public and profession on the procedural steps to be taken to assist the SDT in achieving the Overriding Objective. The Tribunal, the parties and their representatives each have a responsibility to ensure that cases are concluded efficiently and expeditiously, proportionally and fairly and in an independent, impartial and transparent manner.
Annexed to the Practice Direction is the template for Standard Directions, which will be completed at the Tribunal and served on the parties with the proceedings(respondent) and notice of issue of proceedings (applicant). A template Certificate of Readiness for Hearing will be provided at the same time, which must be completed by each party and filed at the Tribunal’s office and served on every other party 28 days before the date fixed for the substantive hearing. In every case respondents are required to file and serve an Answer to the allegations within 28 days of the date of service of the proceedings. In the majority of cases the date of the substantive hearing will be fixed at the same time as proceedings are issued, giving 42 days’ notice in the usual way. In more complex cases, limited Standard Directions will be issued with a case management hearing date. The parties and their representatives will have in effect a detailed case management plan to follow. There will also be much greater use of case management within the Tribunal’s administrative office, to ensure that cases are not allowed to drift and that potential difficulties are identified early and dealt with quickly. It is anticipated that the introduction of Standard Directions will reduce listing delays and applications for adjournment. This will in turn help to minimise the risk to the public and profession of cases remaining unheard for prolonged periods, and reduce the stress, strain and costs burden on the parties and the profession.
There is, of course, provision to apply to vary Standard Directions, either by agreement between the parties or otherwise. Such applications must however be made within 21 days of the date of the Standard Directions. Throughout the proceedings, and particularly at the Certificate of Readiness stage, the Tribunal will expect to see compliance with all Directions and will actively seek reasons for non-compliance, which may have consequences as set out in the Practice Direction. The Practice Direction and Standard Directions will be reviewed from time to time to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the Tribunal and the parties.
Practice Direction No. 6 does not apply to appeals to the Tribunal, which have their own Rules – click here.
Standard Directions will also be issued where respondents make applications to the Tribunal to be restored to the Roll, to determine an indefinite period of suspension, to vary Restriction Orders and otherwise as appropriate.
Please click Practice Direction No. 6 for full details.