On 9 September 2014, the Courts Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2014 (Vic) (the Act) was assented and will come into effect on 10 November 2014. The Act makes various amendments to the Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic) and proposes a new regime for the Court of Appeal to hear civil appeals and applications. The purpose of the Act is to further improve timeliness of the civil appeal process.
The key amendments include:
- greater Registry involvement in the application and appeal process to ensure a smoother, organised and more timely process;
- leave will be required for all appeals (with few exceptions). Leave will only be approved if the Court is satisfied that there is a real prospect of success;
- the amendments allow 28 days to file an application for leave to appeal, file a response and file a cross-application;
- the appeal and application for leave will commence by filing rather than by service;
- An applicant for leave, or appellant, will be required to file a written case (10 pages maximum unless otherwise permitted in advance) with the application for leave, or appeal, setting out the detailed contentions in support of the grounds. An application for leave must address the merits of the appeal;
- encourages the use of electronic filing wherever possible;
- application for leave will be streamed with the hearing of the appeal or listed separately, with an appeal being listed at a later date, if granted;
- allows for determination of the application for leave to appeal to be determined by a single judge only without the need for an oral hearing. The Court of Appeal can decide if an oral hearing is required;
- if a judge has dismissed an application for leave to appeal without an oral hearing, the applicant may apply to two or more judges to set the dismissal aside. However this can only occur if there is some merit to the application;
- if an applicant fails to comply with a direction or order of the Court for a period of a month or longer, the appeal or application will be deemed to be abandoned; and
- an application or appeal can be dismissed by the Court, on its own motion or by an application by a party.
How this impacts on parties
The changes to the Court of Appeal process have various benefits, including:
- reducing the risk of unmerited appeals by applicants, thus saving time and costs;
- determination by written submissions equally saving time and the need for an appearance (and associated costs);
- the process is more streamlined with set time frames and obligations, creating more certainty as to the obligations of the parties and transparency in the case management process;
- the power of the court to dismiss an application or appeal and deemed abandonment provisions are powerful provisions that can only benefit parties and keep matters that are worthy of a hearing on a strict timetable.
The new regime will only apply to appeals and applications filed on or after 10 November 2014. Appeal and applications filed prior to 10 November 2014 will continue under the current regime.
A copy of the Supreme Court of Victoria Instruction to the profession and litigants can be accessed here - The revised instruction.pdf. The note includes examples of the Forms required for bringing an application or initiating an appeal and responding.