On Thursday night the OBA Civil Litigation and Insurance sections held their end of term dinner.
The keynote speaker was Alan Lenczner. I have heard many speeches about how to fix the broken civil justice system, but this was different because of its focus on how the judiciary can assist in the fix.
Lenczner's message was that sophisticated litigants are leaving the civil justice system in droves, opting for private arbitration. The result is a shrinking body of decided cases. To get these litigants back into the civil justice system, we have to get rid of the inefficiencies.
One of the biggest problems is the length of time it takes to get a matter into court for judicial determination. Dates for trials longer than 10 days are now being set for 2016. It takes months to get an appointment for an interlocutory motion before a master or judge.
The judiciary can assist in removing these delays, Lenczner said.
Judges should hold counsel to deadlines prescribed by the rules. Costs awards against counsel, even in small amounts, would quickly end wasteful and delaying tactics. Too many court rooms are empty by midday because the list has collapsed. The old booking system that was flexible enough to allow more matters to be scheduled per court day and for overflows transferred between court rooms, should be re-introduced. Judges should be available to hear matters 9 – 5.
Lenczner concluded by offering to lend his voice to a call by the Bar for meetings with the Bench to start the process of engaging the judiciary in fixing the problems in the civil justice system.