Guide for interlocutory hearings before the Master of the Royal Court, the Judicial Greffier or other Greffier Substitutes

 

Until further notice because of the corona virus pandemic and social distancing requirements, where a hearing is required before the Master of the Royal Court (which shall include the Judicial Greffier or Advocates Wilson or Robinson acting as Greffier Substitutes) the following approach will be taken.

 

1.            For all existing and new summonses, a date fix appointment should be sought in the usual way. By the time set for a date fix hearing, the Master will indicate whether an oral hearing is required or whether a summons may be determined on the papers.  He will also decide who will conduct the application.

 

2.            For the first Directions Hearing, the determination will ordinarily be on the papers. Any oral hearing will be conducted online using StarLeaf and taking the approach set out in this guidance.

 

3.            For a Directions Hearing, the Master will set a date by which the parties are to file their suggested directions, together with any necessary explanation and supporting documentation to justify the directions sought where these are not self-explanatory. Any explanation or supporting documentation should be as concise as possible.

 

4.            In advance of the specified filing date, the parties and their advisors should endeavour to reach agreement on the proposed directions. The Master will then issue a decision on any remaining areas of disagreement with brief reasons where an explanation is required.  If any oral submissions are required the parties will be notified and a short hearing fixed.

 

5.            For all other hearings, a date for a hearing will be fixed in the usual way. If there are multiple summonses in the same matter the Master will determine prior to the date fix whether the summonses can be heard together, having regard to this guidance, and, if a single hearing is not possible, the order in which they are to be heard. This may include different issues raised by a summons being dealt with at different hearings.

 

6.            The maximum length of time for any remote video hearing before the Master will be three hours. If longer time is required or in cases which require review of extensive documentation or authorities, then a video conference hearing using installed video conference equipment will be arranged before the Judicial Greffier or one of the Greffier Substitutes appointed to assist with the coronavirus outbreak. If there is no other option, a party may have to attend in person complying with all social distancing and other preventative measures in place. The parties should therefore provide an estimate of the length of time required to determine the summons. The Master will determine what length of hearing is required.

 

7.            The Master will also fix a timetable for the filing of any evidence or submissions required to determine the summons. To assist the Master, when issuing a summons the application should be accompanied by a suggested timetable for the filing of evidence. The other party(ies) should file any comments in response by the time of the date fix hearing. Please note that any skeletons should be exchanged one week before any hearing rather than 2 working days. The Master may revisit the timetable set at any stage on receipt of any evidence or skeleton arguments.

 

8.            In relation to bundles, these should be filed electronically  with the Master’s secretary and should be as concise as possible with only necessary authorities and affidavits. For lengthy decisions, relevant extracts in their context will be adequate. For exhibits only, a bundle should only contain a document (or a relevant part for lengthy documents) a party wishes to refer to.

 

9.            Once all evidence and submissions are filed, the Master or appointed presiding judge may give an indication of what questions he wishes the parties to focus on, whether any further evidence is needed and whether he has reached any preliminary view on any of the issues in dispute. This is to assist the parties and should not be taken to be a final determination.

 

10.         Parties must use the StarLeaf with sufficient functionality to permit three hour hearings. Those taking part in the hearing will have to provide an email address to the Master’s secretary. If this is a personal email it will only be used for the call and will not be retained after the call. The call will be recorded and a copy retained in the usual way.

 

11.         When logging in an attendee must insert their full name and use the email address previously provided to the Master’s secretary

 

12.         During the hearing the presiding judge will determine the order in which he is to be addressed and any necessary rules to conduct the hearing.  The presiding judge will have its camera and microphone on at all times. A party or legal representative intending to address the presiding judge should have a video on and should be clearly visible. Their microphone should be muted unless addressing the presiding judge. If a party wishes to intervene they should turn their microphone on and the presiding judge will invite the participant to speak at an appropriate moment. All other attendees should have cameras and mikes off i.e. they may listen only.

 

13.         No recordings or other images of the hearing may be taken or downloaded. Any breach of this rule will be a contempt of court.

 

14.         Every hour a 5 minute adjournment may also occur. Adjournments may also be requested to take instructions at any time either by parties logging out or all microphones being muted.

 

15.         Attire appropriate to the dignity of a court hearing is required as far as possible.

 

16.         The court will either announce its decision at the end of the hearing or may reserve its decision in the usual way. Any decision will be recorded in an Act of Court. The court may provide oral reasons, written reasons or a written judgment.

 

Finally, parties are asked to bear with the Court during the coronavirus pandemic. All sitting as presiding judges for interlocutory matters are making the best use of technology they can to continue to provide effective case management in a manner consistent with fair and open justice.

 

This Practice Direction will come into force with immediate effect

 

 


Page Last Updated: 20 Apr 2020