Last updated 6 May 2021
Amendments to the rules of court for the District Court, High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court promulgated
The rules of practice and procedure for all four courts for which the Rules Committee is responsible have been amended. Below, the Committee offers a general description of the amendments, most of which enter into force from 20 May 2021.
The following is for information only and is not to be relied on for any purpose, and should not be taken as reflecting the position of the judiciary. Practitioners and other court users should employ professional judgment, and seek legal advice where appropriate.
District Court civil jurisdiction
The District Court Rules 2014 have been amended by the District Court Amendment Rules 2021.
Most of the amendments come into force on 20 May 2021. These:
- allow the District Court to grant summary judgment on part of a claim (as is currently possible in the High Court);
- align the award of costs for case management on appeals to the District Court with the approach for ordinary proceedings; and
- enable comitttal warrants, community sentences, and fines to be imposed for breaches of enforceable undertakings (as is already possible for breaches of court orders).
From 1 April 2022, the amendments will also require that documents filed in District Court civil proceedings include the registry name in both English and te reo Māori on the intituling page. The long lead-in time for this amendment coming into force will allow the Ministry of Justice an opportunity to update the various forms it is responsible for maintaining.
High Court civil jurisdiction
The High Court Rules 2016 have been amended by the High Court Amendment Rules 2021 and the High Court (Personal Property Securities) Amendment Rules 2021.
From 20 May 2021, the High Court Amendment Rules 2021 will:
- allow committal warrants, community sentences, and fines to be imposed for breaches of enforceable undertakings (as is already possible for breaches of court orders);
- provide that proceedings in which the only relief sought is a declaration of inconsistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 are to be brought under pt 18 of the Rules; and
- clarify that Beddoe applications are to be brought under pt 19 of the Rules as originating applications, and impose particular requirements on the form of such applications.
Also from 20 May 2021, the High Court (Personal Property Securities) Amendment Rules 2021 clarify the relationship between sale orders enforcing a court judgment and the Personal Property Securities Act 1999 by:
- introducing a new r 17.66A requiring a party entitled to seek a sale order to ascertain whether a financing statement is registered against personal property that has been, or is to be, seized and sold under a sale order;
- requiring the Registrar, if notified a financing statement exists, to advise the secured party;
- introducing a new r 17.66B allowing a secured party to apply to the court for an order appropriately protecting the secured party’s security interest;
- introducing a new r 17.66C, which will allow the Judge to order the sale of the secured property and decide how the proceeds are to be distributed while, at the same time, determining any other disputes between the party entitled to a sale order and the secured party; and
- finally, providing, in a new r 17.66D, that the purchaser of property obtains good title to the property free of interests in the property before it was sold.
District Court and High Court criminal jurisdictions
The Criminal Procedure Rules 2011 have been amended by the Criminal Procedure Amendment Rules 2021.
From 20 May 2021, the amendments will mean that documents sent by mail are to be treated as having been served on the earlier of the fifth (rather than the third) working day after the day on which it is posted or the day on which it is received.
From 1 April 2022, the amendments will also require all documents filed in criminal proceedings in the District Court and High Court to include the name of the Registry in which they are filed in both English and te reo Māori on the intituling page of the document. The long lead-in time for this amendment coming into force will allow the Ministry of Justice an opportunity to update the various forms it is responsible for maintaining. A list of the reo Māori names to be used for the registries of the District Court and High Court will be inserted as a new sch 2 to the Rules.
Court of Appeal civil and criminal jurisdictions
The Court of Appeal (Civil) Rules 2005 will be amended from 20 May 2021 by the Court of Appeal (Civil) Amendment Rules 2021.
The amendments allow for documents to be filed and served in an electronic form and will provide rules governing when a document filed electronically is to be treated as being filed. This will include documents initiating appeals. This will align the position in the civil jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal with the position in the High Court's civil jurisdiction, and will carry forward permanently the practice temporarily put into place during the COVID-19 emergency.
The amendments also clarify the distinction between the extensions of time or suspensions the Court of Appeal or a Registrar may grant under rules 43(1B) and (2) and 5A(1)(c) of the Rules.
The Court of Appeal (Criminal) Rules 2001 are also being amended from 20 May 2021, by the Court of Appeal (Criminal) Amendment Rules 2021. These will:
- allow an appellant’s lawyer to sign a notice of appeal, notice of application for leave to appeal, or an interlocutory application if it is impracticable for the appellant to sign the notice or application; and
- require that the heading of each document filed in the Registry includes the name of the court in both English and te reo Māori.
Supreme Court civil and criminal jurisdictions
The Supreme Court Amendment Rules 2004 have been amended from 20 May 2021 by the Supreme Court Amendment Rules 2021.
This will allow all documents, including documents initiating appeals to that Court, to be filed electronically with that Court. Practitioners and parties are advised however, that Court may require a copy of a document filed electronically to be produced.
Previously, all documents initiating appeals to that Court were required to be filed in hard copy. That requirement was waived during the COVID-19 emergency. As the relaxation of the requirement caused no issues in practice, it will now be carried forward permanently.
Representative proceedings workstream reactivated
The Committee has reactivated its workstream related to "codifying" the existing common law related to commencing and defending a representative proceeding within the High Court Rules 2016. The reactivation of this worksteam has been made possible by the Supreme Court's final disposition of the appeal in Southern Response Ltd v Ross  NZSC 126. The decision of the Court of Appeal in this matter, as approved by the Supreme Court, has significantly altered the common law. This has percipitated the need for the Committee to further consider its draft proposals for codification of the existing common law. The Committee anticipates agreeing the wording of draft amendments taking into account the decision in Ross at its meeting of 28 June 2020.
Reform of the costs regime: costs for lay-litigants
At its meeting of 30 November 2020, the Committee considered the 14 submissions received to its initial consultation paper on potential reforms to the costs regime. These reforms might affect the ability of litigants-in-person who successfully bring or defend a claim to obtain an award of costs.
The Committee has arrived at a preliminary view on a number of issues, but has identified that further consultation is required on some matters. A further consultation paper outlining the Committee's preliminary views, and asking for further input on some particularly contentious issues, will be published in the second quarter of 2021.
Please see the project page for further information, and a copy of the initial consultation paper.
Work continues on improving access to civil justice
The Committee's signficiant work programme examining how access to civil justice in the District and High Courts reached a significant milestone with the conclusion of the initial consultation process in late 2020. Details of this initial consultation process are available on the project page.
Over 400 pages of submissions were received from several dozen members of the legal profession, academics, representatives of community organisations, and members of the wider community. Copies of most of the submissions received in response to the Committee's initial consultation papers have been published on the project page.
The Committee has formulated its initial high-level response to the submissions received, and has identiifed that it is appropriate to consult further on this response. A consultation paper will be published in the second quarter of 2021.