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The Rules Committee

Introduction
Rule-making for the High Court
Rule-making for the Supreme Court
Rule-making for the Court of Appeal
Rule-making for the District Court

 

Introduction

The Rules Committee is a statutory body established by section 51B of the Judicature Act 1908. It has responsibility for procedural rules in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and district courts. 

To discharge its rule-making functions, the committee may undertake ancillary activities such as consultation, promoting statutory change where it is needed to co-ordinate with procedural rules, annually reviewing cost levels to update cost schedules, publicising proposed and enacted rule changes, and assisting with seminars about new rules.

The committee relies heavily on input from judges, practitioners, and other interested people.

Comments and suggestions about the rules and the Committee's work are welcomed.

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Rule-making for the High Court

The source of the power to make rules in the High Court is s 51C(1) of the Judicature Act 1908. It provides that the Governor-General, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice and two or more members of the Rules Committee (of whom at least one shall be a High Court judge) may make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court. Neither the Rules Committee nor the Government has the power to make rules unilaterally. Past experience has been that rules proposed by the committee have been endorsed by Cabinet and made by the Executive Council.

As well as making rules in general under s 51C, the Judicature Act provides for the Rules Committee to make specific rules relating to the nature and extent of reviews of the decisions of associate judges (s 6P(1A)); appeals to the High Court (s 51C(1)); costs (s 51C(2)(g)); form and manner of applications (s 51E); and the powers of registrars (51F). There are other statutes to similar effect, such as the Arbitration Act 1996, No 99, s 16; Administration Act 1969, No 52, s 50. See also List Election Petitions Rules S.R. 1998/326.

The rule-making power conferred by s 51C is not confined to civil proceedings. The committee's responsibility extends to criminal proceedings in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

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Rule-making for the Supreme Court

Section 51C applies to Supreme Court rules the same provisions as those applicable to the High Court.

The Rules Committee has relied heavily on members of the Supreme Court to frame rules for the court. Nevertheless the committee has the ultimate statutory responsibility and must independently assess rules before endorsing them for adoption.

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Rule-making for the Court of Appeal

Section 51C applies to Court of Appeal rules the same provisions as those applicable to the High Court.

The Rules Committee has relied heavily on members of the Court of Appeal to frame rules for the court. Nevertheless the committee has the ultimate statutory responsibility and must independently assess rules before endorsing them for adoption.

For civil rules in the Court of Appeal see S.R. 1997/180 and for Criminal Rules see S.R. 1997/168.

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Rule-making for the District Courts

The source of the Rules Committee power to participate in making rules for the district courts is section 122(1) of the District Courts Act 1947. It provides that the Governor-General, with the concurrence of the Chief District Court Judge and two or more members of the Rules Committee (of whom at least one is a district court judge) may make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by the District Courts Act.

As with the High Court, the rules must be "rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court". But in addition they must be confined to the court's activities "in the exercise of jurisdiction conferred by this Act".

Wherever jurisdiction is conferred on district courts by the District Courts Act 1947 the Rules Committee has the power to participate in making rules. This extends to the usual civil proceedings in district courts (see 29 to 34). It also extends to criminal proceedings for indictable and electable offences given that the jurisdiction for such proceedings stems from s 28A of the District Courts Act.

The committee's rule-making powers do not extend to proceedings where district courts derive jurisdiction from any statute other than the District Courts Act. For such cases s 122 (1A) provides that "The Governor-General may from time to time, by Order in Council, make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court in relation to the exercise of jurisdiction conferred by other Acts." For rules governing those other forms of proceedings the Ministry of Justice remains the effective governing body, assisted by other committees on a consultative basis.

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