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Glossary

The glossary for the Courts of New Zealand website is intended to explain in a general way some of the words and phrases used throughout the site.

 act as the court
The minimum number of Judges required to make a decision of the Court.
 administrative law
The law that concerns the control of public power.
 Administrator of the Government
The Chief Justice acting as the Governor-General when the Governor-General is overseas or otherwise unavailable. If the Chief Justice is not available, the next most senior Supreme Court Judge performs this function.
 appeal
An application to a higher court to correct the decision of a lower court.
 appeals on questions of law
Appeals relating to arguments over the way in which the Court appealed from interpreted the applicable law.
 as of right
A statutory right for an appeal to be heard. The leave of the Court is not required.
 authorative declarations of law
The High Court clarifies what the law is.
 bail
The temporary release of a person charged or convicted with an offence under specified conditions and on the promise to return to court on a set date. There may also be other conditions, such as abiding by a curfew or not associating with certain people.
If the defendant breaches any of the conditions or fails to return to court on the set date, he or she may be arrested by the police and brought before the court.
 bar table
The table in court where counsel sit.
 bench
Literally, this is the seat that the Judge sits on, but it has become:
• the description of the Judges hearing a particular case and;
• the description of all the Judges of a specific court (for example, the “High Court Bench” refers to all High Court Judges).
 civil proceedings
The civil jurisdiction of a court covers disputes between individuals and between individuals and the State and includes any matter that is not criminal.
Civil actions can be taken about:
• contracts
• civil wrongs to persons and property (called “torts”), such as negligence and nuisance
• company problems, such as insolvency
• family proceedings
• administrative law matters, such as appeals against decisions made by the Immigration Service.
 common law
The law developed through the decisions made by Judges.
 constitutional conventions
Established rules or practices that are to be followed (principally by the Executive) even though they are not strictly legally binding.
 criminal appeals and civil appeals
Criminal appeals relate to the conduct of criminal proceedings. Civil appeals relate to the conduct of civil proceedings.
 custody
Held by the police, Department of Corrections, or other government agency until the next court appearance.
 decision
The Judge’s decision. This may be reserved, which means that the Judge will produce a written judgment at a later date, or an oral judgment, which is read out and delivered by the Judge and subsequently converted to writing.
 defendant
A person charged with committing an offence who is being tried in the High Court or the District Court; or a person who has had a civil claim made against them.
 Executive
One of the three branches of government, along with the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Executive is made up of Cabinet and Ministers outside Cabinet plus government departments.
The Executive is the administrative branch of government and is responsible for creating policy that becomes legislation, drafting legislation and then administering the law once the Legislature has passed that law.
 final court of appeal
The last and highest court in the hierarchy.
 full bench
The number of Judges required to hear substantive appeals in the Supreme Court and significant appeals in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
 Government
Refer to Executive.
 Heads of Bench
The Chief Judge or Principal Judge of a particular Court, such as the Chief High Court Judge or the Chief District Court Judge.
 higher courts of judicature
Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court. The Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court are all High Court Judges.
 immunity
Judges have immunity against being sued—or having other actions taken against them—for carrying out their judicial functions.
 inherent common law jurisdiction
The power of the High Court to act as it sees necessary to deal with issues before the court, provided such actions are not contrary to any statute or rule.
 judicial review
A review by the High Court as to whether a decision made by a public body has been made lawfully.
 Judiciary
Along with the Legislature and the Executive, the Judiciary is a branch of government in New Zealand. The Judiciary is the independent and collective body of Judges responsible for:
• interpreting and applying Parliament’s laws and
• creating and interpreting case law.
 leave to appeal
Permission (from the Court) to file an appeal.
 legislation
Parliament passes, or authorises, legislation. There are two types of legislation: statutes and delegated legislation.
• Statutes are Acts of Parliament, made by a majority of Members of Parliament voting in favour of a Bill. The Governor-General gives it royal assent before it passes into law.
• Delegated legislation is made by a body other than Parliament, such as Cabinet or local councils. Parliament must have delegated to the body the authority to do this. This type of legislation consists of “statutory regulations”, “orders”, “notices”, “bylaws” or “rules”.
 legislative right to be present
A right set out in a statute or regulation that states that a person must be present at a court hearing.
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