The Bowman Review of the Court of Appeal
Joseph M. Jacob*
The Bowman Review of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) was commissioned by
Lord Mackay and given a general welcome by Lord Irvine.
It is the last of the reports
collectively known as the Woolf Reforms.
It contains 146 recommendations. Its
style and intent are at one with the earlier reports. It is heavy on recommendations
and light on argument. Its purpose is to pave the way for managerial judging, if need
be, to replace adjudication. At first sight the absence of debate is disturbing: after all,
are we not used to a world where proposals for reform are accompanied by a detailed
examination, even analysis, of problems? The answer is that Bowman, like Woolf, is
not intended to aid mere reform. They talk expressly and beguilingly of a change of
culture. This too is deceptive. These reforms are not intended to build on or alter or
adapt the Old World. The reports hardly argue the case for change. Indeed it is
difficult to see how that could be done within the assumptions of the old ways. The
language and the syntax and the grammar are all new. These reforms herald a New
World. It owes little to the past, and what debt there is cannot be explained in any
One merely has to look at some of the recommendations in Bowman to
see the magnitude of the shift from the traditional functions of the Court:
Recommendation 59: the system of supervising Lords Justices with
responsibilities for monitoring cases, giving directions and liaison with lower
courts should be developed and evaluated.
Recommendation 63: there should be legally qualified staff in the Civil Appeals
Office able to: inter alia undertake ad hoc research for the Master of the Rolls,
Lords Justices and the Registrar; write notes or summaries for the assistance of
the court; discuss procedures with litigants and their representatives. And note
The Modern Law Review Limited 1998 (MLR 61:3, May). Published by Blackwell Publishers,
108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
* Law Department, London School of Economics.
1 See Press Statement 3 December 1997 at http://www.open.gov.uk/lcd/justice/bowman4.htm. It is
referred to below as The Review.
2 See: Lord Chancellor’s Department, General Issues Paper, 1987; The Review Body on Civil Justice,
Final Report Cm 394 1988; The Heilbron and Hodge Report, Civil Justice on Trial — The case for
change (Law Society and Bar Council, 1993); Woolf, Access To Justice — Interim Report 1995;
Woolf, Access To Justice — Final Report 1996; Woolf, Access to Justice, Draft Civil Proceedings
Rules 1996; and Middleton, Review of Civil Justice and Legal Aid 1997. In addition to the
consultation on the Interim Report, there are ten or so consultation documents on various aspects of
the final proposals and draft rules. It is currently intended that the whole, including the changes to the
Court of Appeal, will be implemented in April 1999; see the Lord Chancellor’s Speech to the Law
Society 18 October 1997. The seeds of the current spate of changes were in place before the 1990s.
See eg Sir John Donaldson, The Litigation Letter April 1983.
3 Tim Murphy, The Oldest Social Science? (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) accounts for much of the
New Legal Order, but not in the language of the Old. His achievement is to find an explanation in the
social sciences as a whole. It does no justice to the sophistication of his argument merely to say that
he traces a transformation from government as adjudication, via the growth of reliance on statistics, to
adjudication as administration. For example, bringing time and motion studies to the court, the
Review said that on a sample basis ‘the judicial effort required out of court . .. should be assessed and
recorded’ (ch 11 para 13) and see generally under the heading ‘The need for better information’, ch 11
paras 8–17 and eg recommendation 145.
4 This note leaves aside discussion of litigants in person and some of the more technical questions
relating to listing and case management.
See Practice Direction (Skeleton Arguments and Case Management)  1 WLR 1535