The Judicature Modernisation Bill – the retirement of the Judicature Act

The government has introduced the Judicature Modernisation Bill. At a mere 1238 pages, it is a substantive piece of work. It implements the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report Review of the Judicature Act 1908: Towards a New Courts Act ( NZLCR 126).

It is intended that the Bill will be divided into separate Bills at the Committee stage such that Part 1 will become the Senior Courts Bill, Part 2 will become the District Court Bill, Part 3 will become the Judicial Review Procedure Bill, Part 4 will become the Interest on Money Claims Bill, Part 5 will become the Electronic Courts and Tribunals Bill and Part 6 will become 17 separate Bills.

Part 1 will repeal and replace the Supreme Court Act 2003 and the Judicature Act 1908. It will be a separate statute relating to all senior courts, will streamline arrangements on appointments, will create a judicial panel in the High Court, from which judges can be allocated to hear specified types of commercial cases, will repeal the Commercial List and will provide the High Court with the power to issue a range of orders restricting parties from further civil litigation if they have already initiated proceedings that are without merit. It will include requirements for the judiciary to publish information on the delivery of reserved judgements and for the Attorney-General to publish information about the process followed when making judicial appointments.

Part 2 will repeal and replace the District Courts Act 1947 and will establish a unitary District Court with divisions for a Family Court, a Youth Court and a Disputes Tribunal. It will increase the monetary limit of the District Court’s civil jurisdiction to from $200,000 to $350,000 and will introduce similar requirements to those in Part 1 relating to information on judgements and appointments.

Part 3 will re-enact the Judicature Amendment Act 1972, which will be a stand-alone Act with modernised language.

Part 4 will implement the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report on the award of interest on money claims by introducing a single statutory system for awards of interest. Pre-judgement and post-judgement periods will both be eligible for interest and compounding interest will be used to better reflect the market value of loss.

Part 5 will provide for and govern the use of electronic technology in court and tribunal proceedings.

Part 6 will amend 17 other statutes by including within them certain provisions contained in the Judicature Act, by amending legislation covering the Employment Court, The Environment Court and the Maori Land Court, by making amendments to the Arbitration Act 1996 and to provide for a presumption in favour of the use of audio-visual technology in certain court proceedings.

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