Friday, 15 October 2010

District Court Rules

The new District Court Rules-where should I start? I have much respect for the judges who spearheaded the reforms. But I have also heard nothing but negative comments on the vastly more complex forms now needed for the rules to start a new case and much lamenting for the loss of summary judgement at first instance. If the object of the reforms was to make the District Court accessible for lay litigants, then they must have meant lay litigants with law degrees. The Wellington Courts Committee say from Council Brief

"Pleading under the new Rules Committee members have found the prescribed forms that stand in for pleadings under the new system to be very much worse than the old system. The forms are long, repetitious, and difficult to fill out. They do not match each point of the claim with the reply by the defence and so make it harder to identify what is actually in issue. Compared to the exchange of pleadings from previous practice, the forms are slower, and more cumbersome to prepare. They fail to define the core issues in dispute. The additional complication increases expense."


I think the form preparation was captured by Justice staff without any practical experience. What ever was wrong with statements of claim and defence? The issue was not the forms but the gaming, and these new forms must confuse the majority. I could design better forms in a few hours work, although they didn't ask me....
Seriously, there are real problems with the levels of complication. The Disputes Tribunal forms on the other hand are simple and easy to use, and I am increasingly impressed with the rapid and fair approach of this part of the system They are not bogged down with the forms and complex procedure, but just get on with the job. I think Judge Peter Spiller has done a great job of moving the Tribunal into the 21st century, but the new District Court Rules take us back to Jarndyce v Jarndyce.

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