Court of Appeal bemoans more disproportionate divorce litigation
The Court of Appeal has again bemoaned facing “another case where a highly educated couple with young children has engaged in lengthy, destructive and disproportionate legal proceedings”, with costs wiping out the assets in dispute.
In Read v Panzone & Anor  EWCA Civ 1662, Lady Justice King recorded: “These disputes have continued for over five years with emotionally bruising and expensive litigation in relation to both money and the children of the marriage. The present appeal is a second appeal in the financial remedy proceedings. The costs to date are in excess of £500,000. The only substantial asset in the case, a flat in Panama, has a net value of only £298,377.
“As a consequence, as the district judge said in his first instance judgment: ‘There is no way that the parties’ comfortable lifestyle can be maintained. Much of this has been caused by the intolerable burden of costs.’” The wife in the dispute was a solicitor, but “the strain of the proceedings was such” that she had switched to working as a support lawyer.
Pay boost for costs judges
Costs judges in the Senior Courts Costs Office have received a major pay boost this month, following the government’s response in June to last year’s Senior Salaries Review Body review of the judicial salary structure.
Their salaries went up from £110,335 to £112,542 on 1 April 2019, and have jumped up to £140,289 as of 1 October.
The Senior Costs Judge has received a second pay rise as well, but a far more modest one. His salary increased from £137,538 to £140,289 on 1 April, and is £144,498 since 1 October.
Neuberger urges experts to be open on contingency fees
The former president of the Supreme Court has urged expert witnesses to be upfront about working on a contingency fee basis.
Speaking at the recent Expert Witness Institute annual conference, Lord Neuberger said that, so long as the civil justice system remained underfunded, there had to be “some mechanisms so that people can litigate on a no-win, no-fee basis”, although judges were “very uneasy” with it.
Lord Neuberger warned experts receiving contingency fees to be “frank about it” and tell the court and the other side, or risk having their evidence “trashed”.
He added that everyone in the court system, including experts, should make documents shorter than they did. “The pressure on litigation costs will continue and the pressure on experts increase. It is our duty to try and ensure the court comes to the right decision as quickly and cheaply as possible.
“We should keep documents shorter than we do. I don’t have any magic answer, but it is a problem. Whether the system will at some point say that experts should not have to look at everything or will continue to pay for it, I don’t know.”