I've been meaning to comment upon the case of In re X and Y (Bundles)  EWHC 2058 (Fam) that was reported last month. I've posted before about the delights of preparing court bundles, and now Mr Justice Munby has issued a stern warning to the profession about the possible consequences of failure to comply with the 2006 Practice Direction.
Clearly frustrated by the "continuing failure" of the profession to comply, Mr Justice Munby explains that: "the purpose of the Practice Direction is not to make the lives of the judges easier. On the contrary, it is simply a reflection of the increasing burdens being imposed upon judges at all levels in the family justice system who, faced with ever-increasing and almost intolerably overloaded lists, are required ... to undertake a workload, much of it in their own time, which even their comparatively recent judicial ancestors would have found astonishing". Without naming names, he cites two cases of non-compliance, one in which "experienced family solicitors whose notepaper is festooned with the logos of virtually every relevant family law professional body or association" had prepared a bundle that was "lamentably deficient", and the other in which the bundle (also deficient) had been delivered to the court at 10.20 on the morning of the hearing, resulting in the hearing having to be adjourned.
Mr Justice Munby then sets out the possible sanctions for failure to comply with the Practice Direction, including orders for costs against the party in default or against the defaulting lawyers, having the case put back to the end of the list or adjourned, or, in "particularly egregious cases, defaulters may find themselves publicly identified in judgments delivered in open court". He finishes with the warning:
"It would not, in my judgment, be fair or just to expose a practitioner to this last sanction without fair public warning having been given that the sanction is available and that it may be applied in appropriate cases. I have therefore not identified anyone involved in either of the cases to which I have referred. But the professions have now been warned. Next time a defaulter may not be so lucky."
Obviously, the profession would be well advised to heed the warning, although preparing a bundle is an onerous task, and expensive for the client. I recently spent a lot of time preparing a bundle for a final ancillary relief hearing, only to have the matter settle at the last minute. I wasn't amused.