The High Court is introducing an Electronic Bundle Practice Note which can be found at www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/business/practice-directions. The Practice Note was developed by a working party of the Rules Committee made up of judges and representatives of the profession. It was developed as a useful innovation for managing, using and reviewing documents at trial.
It establishes a protocol for creating an electronic version of the common bundle to be used in both criminal and civil proceedings. The Practice Note is not intended to change any of the requirements of the High Court Rules or the Criminal Procedure Rules 2012, but simply provides guidance on the format of an electronic version of the common bundle. This guidance is intended to provide consistency in formatting and ensure that the electronic bundle will work on different platforms and systems.
The purpose of the Practice Note is to encourage the use of electronic bundles in cases involving significant quantities of documents. For civil proceedings, r 9.4(2)(c) of the High Court Rules will be amended from 11 November 2013 to require parties to consider whether an electronic bundle is appropriate when the parties are preparing the common bundle.
The Electronic Bundle Practice Note states that an “electronic bundle will usually be appropriate when the common bundle is likely to exceed 500 pages.” Even where the common bundle is greater than 500 pages, there is no presumption that an electronic bundle should be used. The use of an electronic bundle in addition to the common bundle is up to the parties to consider and agree on, although it is expected that the use of electronic bundles will become more common as both the profession and courts move to a less-paper environment.
The Practice Note sets out several issues that should be considered when considering whether to use an electronic bundle.
Use of an electronic bundle is not limited to civil proceedings. For criminal proceedings, where there are significant numbers of documentary exhibits, the parties should discuss whether an electronic bundle is appropriate.
Although the use of an electronic bundle is voluntary, I encourage the profession to make use of electronic bundles in hearings and trials.
Justice Winkelmann is the Chief High Court Judge.