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A YEAR IN THE LIFE

LEGAL

Mr Justice Rupert Jackson, the new judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court (TCC), has made a few changes since his arrival, writes Kim Franklin. The conclusion of his first year is as good a time as any to review them.

Judge Seymour, infamous for his judgment in cases such as CWS v ICL, no longer sits in the TCC. In that case, the judge had found against the claimant retail group, who claimed losses of £11 million from the defendant computer company, on the basis that CWS had harboured a festering grievance against ICL and wanted to engineer a breakdown in their commercial relationship.

This conspiracy theory, which affected the judge's whole approach to the claim, had not been argued by anyone in the case nor put to the parties by the judge. The Court of Appeal condemned the judge's approach as 'unsupportable'. The risk of their case being allocated to Judge Seymour had put claimants off using the TCC.

Now they can breathe again.

Jackson has also seconded no fewer than five High Court Judges to try such TCC cases as warrant their senior expertise.

The aptly named 'Jackson Five' have been called upon to decide cases such as Gerling General Insurance v Canary Wharf on construction insurance and Hackwood v ADS (2005) on letters of intent.

Two specialist construction silks have also been elevated to the bench. Peter Coulson QC is now perhaps the youngest TCC judge ever and has proceeded to dispatch cases with his usual no-nonsense style. Vivian Ramsey QC, the popular and prolific senior construction silk, has given up his lucrative international arbitration practice to become a more humbly paid High Court Judge. He took this decision, apparently, drinking champagne and flying fi rst class, when he asked himself whether he really wanted to be doing this for the rest of his life.

And then there's the TCC Guide - a truly collaborative document, with contributions from the London and provincial TCC judges, specialist solicitors, the Technical and Construction Solicitors' Association and the Technological and Construction Bar Association. The Guide gives bang up-to-date guidance on all aspects of practice in the TCC, reducing specialist procedures to writing, in some instances, for the first time.

Jackson's input has not been limited to administration of the TCC. He has also given some clear steers on the law.

He informed a meeting of the Society of Construction Law that adjudication may not be suitable for sizeable and complex claims. In Amec v Secretary of State for Transport he distilled the jungle of authority to just seven criteria for determining whether there was a dispute capable of being referred to arbitration or adjudication.

In Carillion v Devonport he warned against finding that adjudicators had acted in breach of the rules of natural justice. In Surefire Systems v Guardian he emphasised the difficulty of appealing to the court against an arbitrator's award.

It seems that Mr Justice Jackson has really taken the TCC by the scruff of the neck in 2005. One can only wonder what the next year will bring.

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