‘The Cook Book’: a review

I never really got into Richard Cook‘s The Annotated Rules of Court as a solicitor. Because it is not published by either of the two lawbook houses, I suspect it languishes under-utilised, but it can be purchased online from the Law Institute Bookshop. I had access to Williams online on my computer, and a copy of Williams’s 3 volume looseleaf service on my floor. Yet I remember wandering around playing that dreadful game “Where’s Williams?” a lot, and being frustrated by the online thing. My suite mate Richard gave me a copy of the ‘Cook Book’ in one of the many acts of generosity by the institution of the Bar and by individual members which I have been experiencing during my reading period. He presents annually in a War and Peaceish-sized paperback for a very reasonable $130:

  • the Chapter I civil procedure rules of the Supreme, County, and Magistrates’ Courts;
  • all the civil forms used in those courts;
  • their scales of costs; and
  • in the commentary, much of what one needs to know from the statutes which govern the Court, such as the Magistrates’ Court Act, 1989.

They are accompanied by a pithy commentary without the historical excursions characteristic of Williams. Many barristers keep a copy at home, and it is a great thing to have in your bag when you go to court. More generally, though, I am a convert, turning to it first and then going to Williams only if I do not find what I need in the Cook Book. A fine balance between what is needed and what may be discarded so as to maintain compactness is achieved. The rules of an order are presented together, and the notes follow, which makes a pleasant contrast from Williams, where it is very difficult just to read the whole of the rules in an order, uninterrupted by commentary. For that reason, I always kept a copy of the Supreme Court Rules on my desk, but a colleague came unstuck once when she consulted that volume, which was out of date, and did not realise they changed the time before trial by which expert reports had to be served at the latest.

In the week or so I have had the Cook Book, I have taken it to the Magistrates’ Court and used it in argument, taken it to the Supreme Court and whilst on my feet making submissions and consulting the book at the same time, come up with Victorian authority for this proposition — that ‘If the plaintiff’s application is dismissed without reference to the defendant’s material it is usual for the plaintiff to be ordered to pay the defendant’s costs of the application’ (Suburban Homes Pty Ltd v Ward [1928] VLR 267), and I have been able to answer promptly a solicitor’s question about the correctness of my pleading in a Magistrates’ Court complaint an entitlement to interest under the Supreme Court Act, 1986. And, just browsing through it now, I have found confirmed something that I have always suspected, but which is routinely ignored. It is that when pleading to an amended statement of claim, you need leave to amend your case except to the extent necessitated by the other side’s amendment: Bowes v Chaleyer (1923) 32 CLR 159.

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