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Cost lawyers enthusiastic about delegated judicial officer role

Investment needed to ensure robust selection, supervision, and review of DJO's, cautions ACL

26 November 2015

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Costs lawyers are ready, willing, and able to become delegated judicial officers (DJOs) and assume responsibility for routine functions currently performed by judges on costs matters, the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has told the Civil Courts Structure Review.

The ACL hailed the proposal to make greater use of DJOs, saying: 'We support the broad principle that qualified and regulated legal professionals with expertise in particular areas of the law should be considered for appointment as DJOs to deal with matters within those specialist areas.'

The association warned, however, that any investment would need to ensure the robust selection, supervision and review of DJOs.

The review, being carried out by Lord Justice Briggs, suggested DJOs would not be judges themselves and their performance of low-level judicial functions would be under supervision and subject to litigants' rights of review by a judge.

The ACL said its members are 'particularly interested' in the proposal, because 'they see themselves as ideally suited to perform the more routine, simple functions currently performed by costs judges'.

'Furthermore, costs lawyers have a breadth of experience across the wide range of areas in which our solicitor clients practice. Subject to training and supervision, there is no reason why suitably qualified Costs Lawyers could not be given general case management powers.'

Commenting on the review, Sue Nash, ACL chair, said: 'In our opinion it would be a step in the right direction to creating a fairer and more efficient costs environment.

'Indeed, costs lawyers' experience in case management is such that we would be well placed take on a broader role as DJOs dealing with matters beyond costs.'

On other matters raised by the review, the ACL said it broadly supported the introduction of online court recommending the inclusion of conciliation as part of the process.

In addition, the association said any restructuring of the civil courts, including the possible unification of the county court and High Court, should be delayed until the impact of DJOs and the online court could be assessed.

Matthew Rogers is an editorial assistant at Solicitors Journal

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