Judge complains after being handed bundle containing 2,000 pages of ‘largely irrelevant material’

Size really does matter, according to Mr Justice Holgate

A High Court judge has fired off a warning to lawyers that unreasonably large trial bundles will not be tolerated after being handed 2,000 pages of “largely irrelevant material”.

Ruling in a recent judicial review application, Mr Justice Holgate took the opportunity to gently remind litigators that the court, under its wide case management powers, is fully prepared to make costs orders against a party for burdensome bundles — even if it wins.

Continuing, Holgate, sitting in the Planning Court, a specialist court within the Queen’s Bench Division, said judges “may consider refusing to accept excessively long skeletons or bundles or skeletons without proper cross-referencing.”

Holgate’s mini-rant is contained in the case of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, R v The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The claimant, represented by national outfit Bond Dickinson, successfully challenged a decision by a government inspector to approve a housing development in Cumbria.

However, despite the claimant succeeding, Holgate was quick to criticise their excessively long bundle. He said:

I regret the need to have to make some observations on the inappropriate manner in which the claim was put before the court… This claim was accompanied by six volumes comprising over 2,000 pages of largely irrelevant material.

It would appear the skeleton argument wasn’t up to his exacting standards either. Describing it as “long, diffuse and often confused”, he suggested it offered “little help to the court”.

Holgate — who was appointed to the High Court in 2014 — suggested that a more modest core bundle of up to about 250 pages is generally sufficient, particularly in judicial review applications relating to planning matters.

However, sometimes it’s the judges themselves who are guilty of overdoing it.

Earlier this year Legal Cheek reported that an Australian judge had been criticised after he spent 17 hours reading aloud his own 138-page judgment. Incredibly, his ruling — which saw a man awarded almost AUS$340,000 (£200,000) when he was thrown from a horse — was later overturned.

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21 Comments

Anonymous

Another day, another judge moaning about the bundles.

I forget the time, of course, when the judge congratulated the solicitors concerned for not including the documents that were wholly irrelevant to the case but that he demanded to see anyway, threw a bit of a paddy when they weren’t there, insisted a supplementary bundle be produced overnight with those documents in, then completely forgot about them when the supplementary bundle was provided the next morning.

It really is a case of Catch 22. You have to have the RIGHT documents in the bundle, but until the case has been heard no one knows what the right documents are.

Of course, none of this would be an issue if we could drag ourselves into the 21st century and have electronic bundles.

(39)(0)
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Anonymous

I would love it, personally. Electronic bundles would defeat many of the dinosaurs in the profession though, much akin to online courts.

(10)(1)
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District Judge Raving Lunatic

I like it when I keep parties waiting for several hours and then tell them I don’t have time to hear their trial. I also like it when I strike out claims when the parties are 1 minute late.

(13)(0)
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Ali Gohar

Duty to court from a lawyer includes disclosure of facts which are even remotely connected with the case, because otherwise it’s concealment. There is this thin line as to what needs to be put up and what not. The courts are required to show as much patience as it makes the lawyers do.

(6)(4)
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Anonymous

You are confusing the duty of disclosure with the contents of bundles. The bundle only needs to contain documents to which the parties will refer during the hearing. In a JR that would generally be very few although there may be exceptions.

Bad bundles are just appalling and waste an inordinate amount of time – no wonder that the senior judiciary have railed against them for years – see Sedley’s Laws.

(7)(2)
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Anonymous

It’s in the judgment:
Juan Lopez (instructed by Bond Dickinson LLP) for the Claimant
Tim Buley (instructed by Government Legal Department) for the Defendant
Jonathan Easton (instructed by Shoosmiths LLP) for the Second Interested Party

(1)(0)
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Anonymous

It is difficult to say without more details, but 2,000 pages really does not seem that much to me at all? Bond Dickinson are probably not acting on the biggest litigation but we aren’t talking about a small regional outfit either.

(1)(1)
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Anonymous

Agree with the first comment. Of course, after the court’s decision, it’s dead simple to say what is, and is not, relevant. I often think the same of disclosure which requires the turning over of documents including those adverse to a party’s case. It maybe a matter of debate as to whether a document is adverse to a party’s case or not.

(2)(0)
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LPC Law Advocate in open court

My favourite is when bundles keep starting from 1 again for each section and don’t even have tabs so you can’t just say A1, B1 etc.

Why not just start from 1 and keep going up?!?!?!

(0)(0)
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