Preceding the trial
The term “case management” has been used in business and health care long before its usage in law. Case management is a useful tool for conducting certain procedures to prepare a matter for trial.
By the time the matter reaches the judge the focus would be on witness testimony and cross-examination in a trial court. In other words the judge would not have to deal with housekeeping matters concerning the case. These matters would have been already streamlined and settled. The focus would be on witnesses and the trial.
During case management, the Master could even determine whether there is a need for trial by a judge. The consequence is that the matter could be resolved at that stage. In other words where there is a clear-cut issue that could be decided, a judgment could be given without having to go before a judge. Many cases have been settled at the case management conference stage.
The usefulness of case management cannot be over emphasized. First introduced in civil matters, it is now used in the criminal branch of the law as well as in the Court of Appeal. The court office fixes a list of all matters to be managed and they are circulated to all concerned. Any criminal matter could be case managed, including assault, murder, burglary, wounding, rape and robbery among others. The case management list of 19th September 2019, for criminal matters in the High Court was quite long. The judge, who could also conduct the trial later on, does the case management. A procedure similar to that in civil court is undertaken to prepare the case for trial. Orders and directions are given to act upon within a particular time frame.
The orders at the case management conference are varied. For example, in the civil court it could be about expert statement, service of witness statements, standard disclosure and inspection of documents among others.
Parties who do not carry out the judge’s orders and directions could be sanctioned.
Part 26.8 of the Civil Procedure Rules 2000 (CPR2000) addresses the issue of relief from sanction.
Where a party fails to comply with a direction or order of the court, the master could impose a sanction. The party must have a good reason for failure to comply with the direction or order. If he wants relief he must act as quickly as possible to address the issue and must give evidence in an affidavit form for the court to consider. Relief from sanction could be given where the court is satisfied that it was not intentional. The court must also take into consideration whether the party had previously complied with other orders and direction of the court.
Before giving relief the court must take into consideration the “interests of the administration of justice”; the effect on the parties; whether the failure to comply was the fault of the party or the legal practitioner; whether previously set date would be affected; whether there is reasonable time for a remedy. [Part 26.8 (3)]
Fixed date claims
This type of claim does not go through the stages as an ordinary claim. For this claim a date for a hearing is fixed immediately. It goes before the judge who can initiate a case management. If the case is not defended it could be dealt with summarily.
After the case management conference is completed a pre-trial review could be scheduled. This is not mandatory and is not used frequently, but it helps to make sure everything is in order. It also ensures a smooth trial.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: [email protected]