The Committee is currently seeking feedback on potential reforms to the High Court Rules and District Court Rules meant to improve access to civil justice by making the costs of civil proceedings more proportionate. More information, and the consultation paper, is available on the project page.
The Rules Committee is a statutory body established by s 51B of the Judicature Act 1908 and continued by s 155 of the Senior Courts Act 2016 and has responsibility for procedural rules in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the District Court. The purpose of the rules is to facilitate "the just, speedy, and inexpensive dispatch of the business" of the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court as well as the administration of justice (s 145 ).
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.
The source of the Rules Committee's power to make rules for the District Court is s 228 of the District Court Act 2016. 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 Court 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 the District Court Act.
Wherever jurisdiction is conferred on the District Court by the District Court Act 2016, the Rules Committee has the power to make rules. This extends to both civil proceedings in the District Court and to criminal proceedings.
The Committee's rule-making powers do not extend to proceedings where the District Court derives jurisdiction from any statute other than the District Court Act. For such cases, s 228(1)(b) provides that the "Governor-General may, by Order in Council, make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court in the exercise of its jurisdiction under any other Act". 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.
The source of the power to make rules in the High Court is s 148 of the Senior Court Act 2016. 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 Governor-General by an Order in Council.
The rule-making power conferred by s 148 is not confined to civil proceedings. The committee's responsibility extends to criminal proceedings in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Section 148 extends the Committee's rule-making power to the rules of the Court of Appeal.
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.
Section 148 extends the committee's rule-making power to the rules of the Supreme 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.