Court of Appeal suggests using cases management powers to control litigants in person

The Court of Appeal’s judgment in Agarwala v. Agarwala [2016] EWCA Civ 1252 is the latest in series of decisions where concern has been expressed about the conduct of litigants in person or McKenzie friends. Lady Justice King’s judgment (with which Lord Justice David Richards and Lord Justice Longmore agreed) contained a postscript noting the difficulties the Court and Court Staff had experienced dealing with the litigants who had bombarded the court with “endless applications”. She noted that the Court had limited time and even more limited resources and stated:

“Whilst every judge is sympathetic to the challenges faced by litigants in person, justice simply cannot be done through a torrent of informal, unfocussed emails, often sent directly to the judge and not to the other parties. Neither the judge nor the court staff can, or should, be expected to field communications of this type. In my view judges must be entitled, as part of their general case management powers, to put in place, where they feel it to be appropriate, strict directions regulating communications with the court and litigants should understand that failure to comply with such directions will mean that communications that they choose to send, notwithstanding those directions, will be neither responded to nor acted upon.”

Lady Justice King’s comments are interesting, because they do not suggest a change to any rules of procedure, but that Judges may use existing case management powers. Practitioners acting in claims against litigants in person may therefore wish to use this judgment in support of obtaining strict directions regarding communications.  

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