Good Court Book preparation supports the work of counsel, but are often done incorrectly or are missing entirely. A good Court Book assists the judge, court staff, counsel, lawyers and witnesses.
A badly prepared Court Book creates hearing delays, interruptions to evidence, poor advocacy and the judge’s workload increases.
Potential problems with Court Books:
- Documents not chronological
- Unnecessary duplication
- Irrelevant documents not adding to the evidence
- Inadequate indexing
A badly constructed Court Book can extend trials and create unnecessary costs.
Hints for Improving Court Books
Hint 1 – The Team
The supervising partner or senior associate must oversee the Court Book’s production. Don’t delegate it to juniors.
Counsel should approve contents and organisation, and witness statements containing Court Book references.
Hint 2 – Chronology
Chronology of documents may not be straightforward.
What order should documents with the same date be assembled? Email times, fax imprints and other indicators then come into play.
A well-informed lawyer or barrister can judge where documents without dates should be included in the chronology or just put the ‘undated documents’ section.
Bulky documents break up chronology in hard copy Court Books by creating multiple folders. Including the coversheet, execution and date pages (if relevant) is usually enough in the chronology. The remainder can be included in other sections.
Sometimes duplicates are important, i.e. copies contain evidence such as fax imprints, date stamps, annotations, etc. However, they shouldn’t be included unless something turns on the time or fact of receipt.
Leave out superseded pleadings and particulars. If earlier versions are pertinent, start the Court Book with current pleadings and particulars, with a separate section for pleading history.
Only include affidavits if something turns on the time it was sworn. Treat it like other bulky documents; only include the front page and maybe an extract.
Exhibits are like other documents – one copy unless something turns on a separate copy.
One departure – for a witness providing a statement having previously sworn an affidavit, integrate the relevant parts of the affidavit into the witness statement. Start with the electronic copy of the affidavit, amend the exhibit references to Court Book references and then include further evidence beyond the affidavit evidence. Bold or italics the further evidence. The affidavit content can still be used for forensic purposes if needed, but there is no need to include a copy of the witness’ affidavit in the Court Book.
Hint 3 – Presenting Hard Copy Court Books
Use sturdy, good quality folders. Fill them to two thirds capacity so you can add material if needed.
Any additional documents given to court should be hole-punched and unstapled. There should be two copies; one for the judge and one for the witness or an exhibit copy.
To find out more about how our Court and Appeal Books team can assist you, contact us
Source: Hargrave, The Hon. Justice. (2014) Court Book Preparation and Related Issues. Commercial CPD Seminar, Monash University Law Chambers
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