Keep it short, judges: no need to churn to earn

zq5cNeumanns v. Adronikou [2013] EWCA (Civ) 916, 24 July 2013  read judgment

This time of year, high court and appellate judges will have been trying to clear their desks – to stop the complex half-finished judgment from skulking around in their minds and spoiling their holidays.

So they must relish this advice from Mummery LJ, a long-standing member of the Court of Appeal, about brevity – in particular, what to do when the CA is dismissing an appeal from an immaculate judgement below: 

What sensible purpose could be served by this court repeating in its judgments detailed discussions of every point raised in the grounds of appeal and the skeleton arguments when they have already been dealt with correctly and in detail in the judgment under appeal? No purpose at all, in my view.

Quite so.

But Mummery LJ did a little more than this in an attempt to stifle down at least some of the words pouring out from the courts, as we shall see.

I shall lose any remaining readers if I go too far into this doomed appeal by solicitors seeking payment of their legal fees and disbursements (£267,000) as an expense of an out of court administration of a football club on its deathbed – Portsmouth FC. For those who with the urge, read pellucid [41] of Mummery’s LJ judgment, designed, as he put it, to be

 an old style judgment, by setting out short legal propositions relevant to this case and the conclusions reached by applying them in this case.

Not enough of this around today, as he plainly thinks. He had sympathy for litigants

 when their advisers have to spend too long working out what the law is. They may be faced with a multiplicity of separate, complex, discursive and (increasingly, imitating the style of subordinate legislation) cross-referential judicial pronouncements at different levels of decision, or at the same level of decision, but sometimes leading to the same overall result.

By contrast, there was no need to do all this when you were agreeing with an able judgment of the court below.

It has been said, more in jest than with justice, that “officials create work for other officials” and that bureaucracies generate work to justify their continued existence. Judges are not officials. The judiciary is not a bureaucracy. Nor is it in the business of earning by churning. … If the judgment in the court below is correct, this court can legitimately adopt and affirm it without any obligation to say the same things over again in different words. The losing party will be told exactly why the appeal was dismissed: there was nothing wrong with the decision appealed or the reasons for it.

At which point, I hear the sound of judicial study doors being slammed, laptops shut, and the zip of suitcases, as they (and I) depart for our actual or metaphorical beaches.

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3 thoughts on “Keep it short, judges: no need to churn to earn

  1. I don’t see it catching on. What do you think lord justices of appeal do on their holidays?

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