Financial Remedies Court – Survey for Litigants in Person

During the pandemic many Family Court hearings have been held remotely by telephone and video. The Financial Remedies Court (which deals with the financial aspects for divorcing couples) is now considering whether such hearings should continue after the pandemic and is wanting to hear from people who have represented themselves in such hearings since the pandemic commenced.

If you represented yourself in your financial remedy case and the hearings were dealt with remotely, could you please complete the short survey that can be found below?

The survey will close on 28th April 2021.

The survey can be accessed by clicking on this link: https://forms.office.com/r/0VUbyhA9fq

 

Tips from the District Bench

I have a great deal of sympathy for the DJs. They have been bearing much of the burden these past many months : keeping things afloat (just about), patiently dialling in the parties and advocates litigant by litigant, lawyer by lawyer, on the blasted telephone conferencing system…dealing with case after case on screen and mountain upon mountain of box work, trying to find a way to steer the wagon of justice to its destination when the very wobbly wheels of that wagon are threatening to roll off into the canyon at every moment. All the judges have had a pretty rotten time of it to be honest, especially those who have had the worry of being in court combined with the difficulties of remote and hybrid hearings – but I sense the pressure on the DJs has probably been most relentless.

So, I thought it was very kind of one such District Judge to take the time to put together a response to my recent ‘woe is me’ blog post, in which I worried about the adjustments that would be required in getting back to court. I know from the responses I got I’m not the only lawyer to be feeling this way, so I hope that the message is helpful – it is important that judges, court staff, lawyers and other professionals hold in mind the pressures and stresses on each other group of colleagues and this exchange of supportive messages is therefore really encouraging.

Here is my original post :

http://www.pinktape.co.uk/rants/finding-the-head-space/

And here is the message from my anonymous correspondent (I don’t know who s/he is, so no point in asking me).

Dear Lucy,

I was interested to read your blog the other week. As a DJ that sits in a court that has been open, and remained open, since the beginning of July last year, I thought these suggestions might be helpful:

  1. If you are worried about attending a particular court, ask to see its risk assessment. Every court has one, and you are entitled to see it. 
  2. If you or your client have a particular vulnerability or concern, please make the judge aware, in confidence, preferably in advance, so that any additional measures can be considered.
  3. Register for the Professional Court Users Access scheme so you can skip searches and zip through security. If your court doesn’t yet operate this, bring as little as possible with you. If you bring a handbag security will empty it into a tray as they are not allowed to touch your belongings.
  4. Mask wearing is mandatory unless you are exempt. If you are, HMCTS will give you a sunflower lanyard so you are not challenged by security.
  5. Court will be a very different place from when you were last there (at least in the family and civil courts). No crowded waiting areas, no block lists, social distancing markers and hand sanitiser everywhere. Expect to see the courtroom being touch cleaned between every hearing.
  6. If you have a fixed time listing, it may cause difficulties if you overrun, although most judges will be flexible if they can be.
  7. Don’t complain if there are not enough conference rooms, most of them are being used by court staff who have to socially distance or may be vulnerable themselves. – try to have a conference with your client before you come to court.
  8. Don’t get too close to your client to take whispered instructions during a hearing – you still have to socially distance inside the courtroom. In my court, I am happy for you to ask to take a short break to take instructions in private outside, or text each other silently.
  9. Don’t assume that the courtroom can necessarily accommodate your pupil or trainee solicitor, and instructing solicitor. All courtrooms have safe number limits – check in advance. We will accommodate as many as it is safe to do, especially those learning their trade. 
  10. Tell your client not to bring family members with them, unless they have a particular vulnerability. All court buildings can only safely accommodate a finite number of people, and we are trying to keep footfall to a minimum. 
  11. Don’t assume every court has the technology or staff support to facilitate large numbers of remote hearings. Many still do not. If you need to request it, do so well in advance so we can make appropriate arrangements.
  12. Please don’t ask for a remote hearing before checking it is what your client prefers and that they have the technology and an appropriate location to access it without interruptions. It’s their case, and they are entitled to feel they have had a fair hearing.
  13. If you see anything that doesn’t look right or gives you cause for concern, eg potential overcrowding,  alert a member of staff or security straight away, so we can address it.
  14. It’s natural to be anxious and Judges understand that. I have found that most advocates are reassured after their first visit, and enjoy the social interaction once more, as do we.

I think I want to pre-empt comment from legal aid family lawyers that the idea we might ‘try to have a conference with your client before you come to court’ is probably unrealistic for a number of reasons, and remind readers that DJ work is a broad range of both children and civil work – and that the DJ probably has in mind the many cases in which it will be both possible and sensible to plan ahead in this way.

Res Ipsa Loquitur? (actually no it doesn’t) – AKA Latin and the Law

I did my law training in 2000, around the time of the ‘Woolf Reforms’. I recall being relieved to learn that part of these reforms involved the abolition of latin in the law, which was helpful since I didn’t know any, being an interloper and all. Ever since then I have considered it a point of principle never to learn any latin unless absolutely necessary – thereby proving to the posh kids that their expensive education was wasted.

But in truth, over 20 years later, we do still use latin, albeit fortunately not that often. And there are a few terms that have become so normalised in the law that we maybe even forget they are latin and that non-lawyers might not have a scooby what they mean (pro bono being the best example – giving an organisation providing free legal representation to non-lawyers a latin name was rightly recognised as less than optimal signposting a few years ago when the excellent Bar Pro Bono Unit renamed itself Advocate). And I still don’t have a clue what most of them mean…

Recently, I’ve seen a few things that have reminded me of the prevalence of latin… This thread on twitter set me off…

https://twitter.com/inreGray/status/1373082805010321410?s=20

This is a US video – its kind of amusing, and I was interested to see that whilst there are a few familiar terms, there are also quite a few that I have never heard of before! Actually, most of these aren’t latin, but the same difficulties with impenetrable technical language arise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd57pgv6RUA

 

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a run down of some key latin terms used in the law* and what they probably** mean. A sort of (entirely unreliable and made up) urban dictionary of legal latin…

Inter alia – what goes on tour stays on tour

Res ipsa loquitor – I lost my keys

Pro bono – your argument was the dogs b***ks

Pro se – professional speaker

Mar a lago – I deny everything and plead the fifth

Ad idem – by my calculation…

Bona fide – good dog

Certiorari – absolutely sure, your honour

A posteriori – talking out of one’s backside

Voire dire – baggsie my turn to speak now

Mutandis mutandi – Another X Men sequel (likely to bomb)

Prima facie – one sided

Mutandi facie – your lips are moving but you seem to be on mute

Habeus Corpus – there is a body in my basement

Forum non conveniens – can we have a remote hearing please? I will have to get a very early train in order to make it to Haverfordwest by 9am.

A fortiori – an Englishman’s home is his castle

Stare decisis – when the judge’s decision is conveyed merely through his facial expression

In camera – case involving a celebrity (B list or above)

Espresso – hurry up, time for a caffeine break

Ex parte – the morning after

Quantum meruit – the number of followers a celebrity litigant has on twitter

void ab initio – get in the bin

Decree nisi – the order I wanted

Ultra Vires – covid secure courtroom

Expeliamus – you lose!

(Writ of) fieri facias – the red face of the losing party post-judgment

Mens Rea – objectification, Milud!

Decree absolute – she got everything, even the house

Caveat emptor – Avengers baddie

Ratio – probability of winning your case (see Thanos)

Thanos ratio –  50% chance of complete annihilation at trial

Ejusdem Generis – Just give me everything I ask for oh kind judge.

Per incuriam – this judgment is so long lost the will to live

Doli incapax – childrens’ toys not permitted

Mandamus –  applicable to persons of both sexes

Amicus Curiae – nosey parker

Obiter – saviour of Leia

Dicta – grateful idiot

Tardisi regretix – I would like to rewind and make that submission again, please

Darth Vader – the presumption of legitimacy

Yes, it’s a bank holiday weekend. Yes, I’m not sure what to do with myself when I’m not working. Yes this is a banal and pointless post. I need to get out more… I promise to write something useful next time.
For anyone who actually wants to know what all these things really mean – this wikipedia page is quite useful.
*not necessarily actual latin….**
**not necessarily their actual meanings…