Nothing says excitement quite like the rules of civil procedure. We might laugh at that statement, but such rules are important insofar as they govern the way cases are commenced and managed through to resolution.
As indicated in our previous article there are impending wholesale changes to the District Court Rules (DCRs). Following Royal Assent on 26 May 2014, these changes will come into effect on 1 July 2014. Every proceeding commenced after this date will need to comply with the new DCRs.
The key change to note is that the much-maligned and repetitive notice of claim and information capsule procedure will be replaced by the traditional statement of claim process. Anyone familiar with the High Court Rules will instantly recognise the procedure required under the new DCRs. On a broader level, the new DCRs will align with the High Court Rules except where each court has a substantive difference in procedure. An example of a difference is initial disclosure. Under the High Court Rules, each party is required to provide documents when filing its first document. Under the new DCRs, each party will only need to provide a list of documents when filing its first document, and will only need to provide the documents themselves if a request is made for them.
Further changes to the District Court are expected in future: for example, the civil jurisdiction of the District Court is likely to increase from its present $200,000 to a higher figure (currently proposed as $350,000). Substantive changes like this are part of the Judicature Modernisation Bill. That Bill has recently been reported out of Select Committee, which has recommended that it be passed into law. When that might occur is difficult to predict particularly with the forthcoming election, but we note that no practical parties are attempting to block the Bill at this stage.
The changes coming into force on 1 July 2014 are welcomed. They should provide clarity and reduce the time between filing a claim and having it heard. This can only assist in the administration of justice.