Weed out otiose, judges told

Courts/judiciary
Judgments must be made clearer and more concise – or public confidence in the justice system could be undermined, the President of the Supreme Court has warned.


Lord Neuberger, speaking at the first annual BAILLI lecture (20 November 2012), said that judgments must speak as clearly as possible to the public, particularly given the rise in self-represented litigants.

“The steps to increased clarity are not difficult,” said Neuberger, but “ingrained habit may take some effort to break”. Neuberger suggested two quick fixes to improve accessibility. First, to add a short summary at the start of each judgment sufficient to enable a non-lawyer to know the facts, the issues, and how and why they were resolved. Second, that judges should give a clear framework to longer judgments, such as a table of contents, a roadmap, and appropriate signposts throughout.

A more controversial suggestion was that judges should cut the length of their judgments. “Judges should weed out the otiose,” he said. “We should, for instance, remove unnecessary displays of learning, or what the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, recalls his history teacher marking on his essay, APK, anxious parade of knowledge.” Whilst not suggesting banning dissenting judgments, Neuberger proposed that they could be fewer, and shorter.

Category: