The courts possess extensive ‘case management’ powers. In his reports of 1995–96 Lord Woolf adopted this technique as the mainstay for actions on the ‘multi-track’, thus including all High Court litigation (this track covers more expensive County Court litigation and all High Court actions). The court must now ensure that matters are properly focused, procedural indiscipline checked, expense reduced, and progress maintained or even accelerated.
To prevent each managerial judge ‘re-inventing the wheel’, and to ensure consistency, Sir Rupert Jackson has noted the need for all judges to have access to soft ware systems providing model directions.
In his lecture, ‘Achieving a Culture Change in Case Management’, Jackson noted the criticism that case management, if not applied efficiently, might itself become a drain on the system and increase the overall cost of litigation. He suggested that the legal system must steer a middle course between Scylla and Charybdis: ‘in this context Scylla is officious intermeddling by the courts, which gobbles up costs to no useful purpose’ and ‘Charybdis is laissezfaire litigation, which leaves the parties to swirl around in uncontrolled litigation – with all the problems which Lord Woolf identified in his Reports’ (on the Woolf reports: 1.06 ff). In April 2013, as part of the Jackson reforms, the following changes were made. On the multi-track, parties must now endeavour to agree appropriate directions for the management of cases and they must submit directions seven days before any case management conference. An electronic menu of standard directions for cases allocated to the multi-track is provided via a link on the Civil Procedure Rules website. Parties will also been given confirmation by the court of the day or week in which the trial will begin following the filing of the pre-trial check list, a listing hearing or a pre-trial review.
This form of procedural organisation enjoys international support. The (non-binding) American Law Institute/UNIDROIT Principles recommend that the court should ‘actively manage the proceedings, exercising discretion to achieve disposition of the dispute fairly, efficiently, and with reasonable speed.’