Last revised 22 September 2020
The Rules Committee continuously reviews the rules in light of national and overseas developments. It monitors Australian and United Kingdom reports and reforms to identify areas where New Zealand could adopt or adapt ideas.
Below are a number of areas in which the Committee is currently undertaking significant reviews of the rules of practice and procedure. The list is not exhaustive, and does not refer to the numerous smaller matters of a more technical and detailed nature the Committee regularly addresses (such as out-dated cross-references, apparent typographical errors, and changes to lesser used specialised procedures).
The review process is a perpetual one. The Committee welcomes comments and enquiries from the profession and the public about existing projects or other concerns relating to procedural rules which it is thought should be brought to the Committee’s attention.
Current Major Initiatives
Promoting access to civil justice
The Committee has been made aware of concerns regarding the costliness associated with bringing a civil claim in the District Court. These concerns relate to the apparently disproportionate cost of complying with relevant procedural requirements for claims below a given value. The Committee has also become aware of similar concerns regarding the disproportionately burdensome nature of many procedural requirements in place in the High Court.
This work programme has reached a significant milestone with the conclusion of the initial consultation process. 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.
The Committee is currently formulating its response to the submissions received, and intends to publish a report setting out its response once this is determined.
It is the Committee's intention to publish copies of the submissions received once appropriate redactions are made to protect privacy interests.
Any person interested in obtaining more information should consult the minutes from previous meetings under "Committee Minutes".
Costs for lay-litigants
The Supreme Court, in its decision in McGuire v Secretary for Justice  NZSC 116, indicated that it may be appropriate for the Rules Committee to reassess the continuing appropriateness of the rule prohibiting the award of costs to successful lay-litigants, and also the exceptions to that rule allowing costs to lawyers appearing in person and in-house counsel.
The Committee has determined that it is appropriate to review these matters, and to consider what new rules of court will be required if the current rules are changed.
The Committee is currently undertaking consultation with the profession and public regarding potential reforms in this area. More information, and the Committee's consultation paper, can be found on the project page.
Electronic filing in the High Court
The Committee has identified that it would be desirable to ensure that electronic filing is permitted under the High Court Rules 2016 in as many cases as possible.
The scope of electronic filing permitted in the High Court was radically expanded during the period of emergency assocaited with COVID-19 pursuant to the High Court (COVID-19 Preparedness) Amendment Rules 2020.
The Committee is presently working with the Ministry of Justice to determine the greatest extent to which the extension of electronic filing that took place during the COVID-19 emergency can be maintained following the cessation of the emergency, having regard to available resources and facilities.
Electronic filing in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court
The Committee has identified it will be desirable to maintain the increased availability of electronic filing in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court seen during period of emergency assocaited with COVID-19 once that period of emergency ends. In essence, this allowed documents initiating appeals to be filed electronic, whereas previously these were required to be filed in hard copy.
Amendments to the rules of court for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal will be promulgated in late 2020 to make permanent this extension. This will apply to both the criminal and civil appellate jurisdictions of these courts.
Representative proceedings (suspended)
The Committee has been working to develop rules to "codify" the procedure for commencing and defending a representative proceeding, pending legislative reform in this area.
A draft proposal was published for the purpose of consultation. A copy of the Committee's consultation paper can be found here . The Committee has considered the feedback it has received to that proposal, and has prepared draft rules for adoption.
Following the Court of Appeal's decision in Ross v Southern Response  NZCA 431, which significantly altered the common law position regarding representative proceedings, the Committee has decided to suspend work on this area of work until the final disposition of any appeal from that decision. This is because the Committee's aim in promoting rules reforms in this area is to capture, as opposed to modify, the common law position, and it is desirable that position become settled before any rules are promoted.
Feedback and Suggestions
The Committee welcomes feedback on any of these or other issues relating to rules relating to the practice and procedure of the Courts. Please direct any comments to the Clerk.