The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has provided feedback to the Rules Committee on a ‘once in a generation’ reform of New Zealand’s court processes and litigation culture. The proposed changes are designed to improve access to justice by reducing the cost of bringing a civil matter to court.
The Rules Committee, which is the statutory body responsible for procedural rules in the District Court and senior courts, recently invited feedback on its Improving access to civil justice further consultation paper. The paper sets out various reform proposals which aim to ensure the costs of complying with procedural requirements are proportionate to the value of each dispute.
The consultation paper sought feedback on three key proposals: increasing the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal, improving the District Court’s institutional capability to hear civil claims, and introducing a new framework for the High Court’s civil jurisdiction.
Following consultation with the legal profession, the Law Society made a submission to the Rules Committee supporting its proposed reforms.
“We believe the proposals can help ensure a right-sized approach for most, if not all, litigation, and increase focus and decrease time and cost,” says Daniel Kalderimis, convenor of the Law Society’s Civil Litigation & Tribunals Committee.
In its submission, the Law Society supported the proposal to increase the jurisdiction of the Disputes Tribunal to $50,000, but noted that any further increase could impact on the features of the Tribunal that make it suitable for resolving smaller claims.
The submission also supported proposals to strengthen the competency of the District Court, led by a Principal Civil Judge. At the same time, the Law Society invited the Rules Committee to review the District Court Rules to ensure they work well under the improved system.
The Law Society also welcomed the proposed changes to the High Court Rules. These changes are aimed at addressing unnecessary cost-barriers to accessing justice, and include a proposal to replace the current discovery rules with disclosure rules. The proposed new rules would require a party to disclose adverse documents under a ‘duty of candour’.
The Law Society noted that the current High Court Rules and professional obligations do not clearly define the ‘duty of candour’ or outline the obligations that arise under that duty. The Law Society has therefore recommended clearly setting out any obligations which arise under the duty, in the High Court Rules or other relevant instruments.