The claimants had brought proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision out of the estate of their late father, Arnold Seal. The sole executrix and beneficiary of the estate was the defendant. Related proceedings had generated considerable acrimony with the result that the parties’ positions were in danger of becoming entrenched. An attempt at mediation had largely stalled and the legal representatives of the parties proposed as a way forward that the court undertake an early neutral evaluation of the case.
An early neutral evaluation was highly commendable – the advantage of such a process over mediation was that a judge would evaluate the respective parties’ cases in a direct way and may well provide an authoritative (albeit provisional) view of the legal issues at the heart of the case and an experienced evaluation of the strength of the evidence available to deploy in addressing those legal issues. The court was authorised to take this step under the Civil Procedure Rules for the purpose of managing the case and furthering the overriding objective. As such, the expression of provisional views, which would reduce the areas of dispute and the general scope of argument, was part of the judge’s inherent jurisdiction to control the proceedings before him. If the parties requested a judge to express such provisional views, then it was part of his judicial function to accede though without being bound to do so whenever requested. In this case, the proposed directions were carefully drafted so as to enable the settlement judge the opportunity to make non-binding recommendations as to the outcome and to state short reasons for them without in any sense attempting a provisional judgement. Order in the form agreed.JUDGMENT NORRIS J:  Robert Seals and Andrew Seals commenced Inheritance Act proceedings against the estate of their late father, Arnold Seals. The sole executrix and beneficiary of the estate of the late Arnold Seals is Mrs Williams.  There has already been one round of litigation, before David Richards J, concerning entries on the …