The President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal has asked members of the EAT User Group to relay his comments on a couple of matters. The following is my summary of his remarks, followed by my own views (which should not be confused with the President’s).
First, people must not try to send appeal bundles or bundles of authorities to the EAT by email. They don’t have the resources to deal with the printing this would involve.
Second, the judges at the EAT are concerned that Notices of Appeal are becoming increasingly long — tending to turn into short stories. And that skeletons have a tendency to turn into full novels. They find this unhelpful and would like us all to be less prolix.
This is an ongoing tension. Judges, in general, want written submissions to be short. Parties and advocates have more complicated objectives (and, ultimately, want to win their case more than they want to keep the judge happy).
We’ve written before about the Court of Appeal’s comments in Tombstone v Raja. More recently, I’ve argued that the Court of Appeal’s attempt to hold onto a primarily oral form of advocacy is both doomed and wrong: Skeletons, fleshy corpses and the Court of Appeal.
But, having said that, most notices of appeal and most skeletons are too long. This is counter-productive, since a short, clear and concise argument is more persuasive than a long and rambling one. In most appeals, the point can be made quite briefly — and should be.
Judges have a limited amount of time and attention to devote to any particular case. It’s generally better, from the advocate’s point of view, for this to be concentrated on a careful consideration of a short document, than a more cursory read of a longer document. This will also have the happy side effect of making the judge’s life easier (or at least not making it harder), which can only help you.
It is easier to write a long skeleton than a short one. But a short skeleton is almost always better. Given the importance of written advocacy in the EAT, it’s well worth making the effort.