From 1 March 2017 new legislation has brought about change in
civil procedure. Our District Court, High Court, Court of Appeal
and Supreme Court are now all governed by new Acts.
Whilst the overarching legislation concerning our courts has been reorganised, the substantive changes within the legislation are less monumental.
A key change affecting many of our clients is an increase in District Court jurisdiction, increasing the monetary claim limit from $200,000 to $350,000. This offers an effective alternative to the High Court for higher value civil disputes.
Other changes include:
- Many section numbers within the statutes have been altered (rather than their substance), which is bound to keep lawyers on their toes.
- New sections give Judges express authority to stop vexatious claims which have no merit.
- The introduction of an Interest on Money Claims Act 2016 which is due to come into force in January 2018. This statute will replace a range of old rules, which had to be read in conjunction with separate Orders in Council. The new regime will give greater uniformity to the way in which interest is calculated on judgment debts. A progressive-looking 'internet interest calculator' is proposed in the schedule to the statute, replacing the need for manual calculations that lawyers presently carry out.
- The High Court Rules have been elevated in their status from subordinate rules to part of the statute. Interestingly the District Court Rules, Court of Appeal Rules and Supreme Court Rules have not received the same treatment.
- Appeal rights have changed in the High Court. The process of appealing decisions of Associate Judges and High Court Judges are now treated alike, and litigants who wish to challenge High Court interlocutory decisions now have an additional hurdle of obtaining leave before they can appeal. This has been met with some criticism, as it means that Judge who made the decision appealed against can decide whether to allow or stop the appeal from proceeding the next stage.
In its move through Parliament, the Judicature Modernisation Bill (from which the changes above have evolved from) had hinted at an increase in the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal from $15,000, or $20,000 by agreement, to $25,000, or $30,000 by agreement. This change has not been adopted, however, it seems likely that this increase will be brought about in future.
Some more exciting changes lie ahead for litigants as courts slowly move away from paper based files and transition into a more electronic environment. The Electronic Courts and Tribunals Act 2016 is waiting in the wings and on its introduction will enable filing of court documents electronically. We welcome the introduction of this statute and expect it to be as successful as the recent adoption of electronic discovery protocols and electronic casebooks for trial.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.