Aug 19 2008

C v C: a precedent for fixed time limits on speeches in the Court of Session

C v C, 2008 CSIH 34, a recent international child abduction case in which I was senior counsel for the petitioner, is, I understand, the first reclaiming motion in recent years in which the court ordered limits on how long the parties might address the court. The relevant part of the interlocutor of 23 April reads:

‘In respect of the Summar Roll hearing, direct the party reclaimer and first respondent1 to address the court on 13th May 2008 from 10.30 am, or as close as may be, until one pm; allow the other parties2 two hours each thereafter to address the court, with a right of reply if appropriate.’

The reason I sought this order, never having asked for anything like this before, was that these were urgent proceedings3, and the party litigant who was appealing gave every indication that, if allowed, he would speak for weeks on end.

In the event, the reclaimer, whose bail had been revoked in parallel extradition proceedings the Friday before the summar roll, ‘complained that, in consequence of his incarceration, he had had an insufficient opportunity to prepare his submissions‘ and the court (differently-composed to that of 23 April) accordingly allowed him further time (although rather less than he asked for): see paragraph [14] of the decision. But there was no suggestion that this unique, or very unusual, order was at all inappropriate in principle. It may now be suggested in other reclaiming motions that such an order should be made.

While fixed time limits on speeches would save time in open court, and help in timetabling, they do require the court to have read the necessary papers beforehand. The reason why Scottish courts do not normally set such limits is that it cannot be assumed that they will have done so.

  1. The same person. [back]
  2. The petitioner and the curator ad litem to the children. [back]
  3. Article 11 (3) of the Brussels Regulation, which governs child abduction proceedings when the requesting jurisdiction is in the EU, desiderates no more than six weeks for the entire proceedings; and this had already been exhausted in the Outer House, where with a great deal of hard work on everybody’s part a decision had been given on the forty-second day. [back]

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