News & Thinking
What will happen to my scheduled Court case?
This FAQ is intended to clarify some of the uncertainty about proceedings that are currently on-foot (i.e. filed before or during the Level 4 alert restrictions).
The information contained in this FAQ is focused primarily on proceedings filed in the High Court. However, there will also be a degree of carryover to proceedings in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
For more detail, visit their website here.
What will happen to my scheduled Court case?
That will depend on the subject-matter of your case and the stage it is currently at.
The matter is still progressing through case management stages (i.e. filing pleadings, evidence, interlocutory applications, discovery, etc.)
The parties are expected to continue complying with timetabling orders and / or default filing obligations. This includes filing and serving relevant documents as and when required.
As set out below, certain accommodations have been made to facilitate deadline compliance and Court filing without significant disruption.
The matter is ready to be heard
Only “priority proceedings” which meet the following criteria will be heard during the Level 4 alert: liberty of the individual, personal safety and health or matters/applications in which resolution is time critical. With respect to the latter, this would include urgent injunctions and caveat applications.
Consequently, with the exception of those that are “time critical”, civil proceedings (i.e. not criminal) are not being heard during Level 4.
If your case was set down to be heard during the Level 4 period before the restrictions were announced and it is a non-priority proceeding, it will likely be adjourned to a later date.
I have a caveat issue – what do these changes mean for me?
The Registrar-General of Land has announced that new requests under the “lapse” provision (s143 Land Transfer Act 2017) after Level 4 alert was imposed will not be actioned while it remains extant. However, those that were already underway may still proceed provided service requirements have been met.
Therefore, those wishing to have their caveat application heard urgently should commence proceedings under s142 of the Land Transfer Act 2017 for removal of the caveat and provide evidence of urgency. Given property settlements that require physical movement of people are prohibited during Level 4, it is unlikely that the requisite conditions of urgency will be satisfied by raising the need to transfer the property. This will obviously depend on the circumstances.
How do I know whether my case is going ahead?
Your lawyer at Anthony Harper will be in contact with the case officer at the Ministry of Justice and monitoring whether your case will proceed during Level 4 or has been adjourned until a later date. We recommend you speak with them in the first instance.
If my case is not a “priority proceeding”, when will it be heard?
Cases that involve witnesses giving oral evidence within a courtroom will not be heard before the week commencing 25 May 2020, even if the alert level is reduced to Level 3 prior to that date. This is to mitigate opportunities for community transmission to occur within a courtroom.
In cases that do not involve oral evidence from witnesses, parties to non-priority proceedings are encouraged to agree to have their case heard by audio-visual link, telephone, or on the papers (no oral arguments). These remote-hearing cases may be heard immediately after the Level 4 lockdown is lifted. The 25 May 2020 date will therefore not be applicable. However, dates will be subject to availability. It is not yet clear how soon remote-hearing cases will be convened.
We have timetabling orders / default filing obligations that require us to file a document by a certain date. How can we comply with these orders given we cannot deliver hardcopies to the courthouse?
The Courts are taking a flexible approach to deadline extensions and encouraging parties to communicate with their case officers and the opposing side at the earliest available opportunity where it appears that deadlines will not be met.
Parties are encouraged to reach agreement on extensions to filing and service deadlines where possible. The Chief High Court Judge has said that unreasonable resistance to proposed modifications to timetabling / filing obligations will lead to cost exposure for the opposing party.
To assist, all registries (including Court of Appeal & Supreme Court) are now accepting electronic filing in lieu of hardcopy (as opposed to in addition to electronic copies, as was previously the case).
If you have any questions, please contact us.