High Court: COVID-19 Past Alert Level 4 Protocol


9 April 2020: Amendments to the High Court Rules 2016
8 April 2020: Extension of suspension of new jury trials
2 April 2020: Update
25 March 2020: Practice note, Further advice to profession regarding civil proceedings
25 March 2020: Operations under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 4
18 March 2020: Suspension of new jury trials


Amendments to the High Court Rules 2016

9 April 2020

The High Court Rules 2016 have been amended to ensure that civil justice remains accessible during the COVID-19 outbreak.  A summary (PDF, 150 KB) of the changes is available.


Extension of suspension of new jury trials

8 April 2020

Chief Justice Winkelmann has announced (PDF, 181 KB) that all new jury trials will now be suspended until Friday 31 July 2020.



Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Venning
2 April 2020

1.  During the current level 4 alert the Court is conducting only priority proceedings that meet one of the following criteria: liberty of the individual, personal safety and health or matters/applications in which resolution is time critical.  (Refer to the priority proceedings list in the High Court practice note.)

2.  The majority of matters the Court has dealt with to date are: bail appeals/applications; conviction and sentence appeals; custodial remands; habeas corpus applications; urgent injunctions and caveat applications.

3.  At present the hearings are generally being conducted by telephone link without requiring counsel or the parties to attend court.  The Judge is in the courtroom.  The Registrar starts the conference call or AVL connection and the parties will then either generally appear by telephone or AVL.  On some occasions, however, counsel will appear in person.  The hearing is recorded by the National Transcription Service.            

4.  When a criminal call-over/custodial remand is held the defendant(s) will appear by AVL from custody, or if on remand, appearances will generally be excused.

5.  Where permitted by rules or by consent some appeals and applications may be decided on the papers without a hearing.

6.  Hearings are listed on the Courts of New Zealand website under Daily Lists.  The mode of hearing is noted on the list.

7.  As an essential service the media may attend the courtroom where the hearing is held.  Proof of identity will be required to access the court.

8.  If the media wish to attend by link to the telephone conference they should advise the Registry to arrange access.  Technical constraints may require the number of media attending the call to be limited.

9.  The media are entitled to report hearings subject to any relevant suppression orders made.  They may not film without express consent.

10.  The Court is presently exploring the availability of virtual hearings.  Where a hearing is to be held virtually, the media should again advise the registry as soon as possible before the hearing of their wish to attend.


Practice note: Further advice to profession regarding civil proceedings

Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Venning
25 March 2020

1.  Alert level 4 is currently in place until at least 23 April 2020.  During alert level 4 there are no criminal or civil trials.  The Court is, however, continuing to deal with priority proceedings that meet the criteria identified by the Chief Justice as requiring to be dealt with during this period.  As explained below, the Court is also prepared to deal with other proceedings, if those proceedings can be dealt with remotely.

2.  The Court recognises the disruption and practical difficulties caused by the current situation to the profession and to the parties with civil cases scheduled to be heard by the Court during the period of the level 4 alert and within the weeks following the lifting of that alert.

3.  To provide certainty to the profession and parties no cases involving witnesses who need to give evidence within a courtroom will be required to proceed before the week commencing 25 May 2020 even if the alert level is reduced to Level 3 prior to that date.

4.  The Court will, however, endeavour to resume hearing other cases (including cases with witnesses) prior to 25 May.  Such cases will need to be able to be conducted using remote means of participation.  Counsel who wish to nominate their case to be heard in this way should therefore confer to ensure this can be done and then advise the Registry accordingly.

5.  Duty Judges will review the files scheduled for hearing during the weeks leading up to 25 May 2020 and, where necessary, will issue minutes on those files providing for the re-allocation of fixture dates and revised timetable directions.

6.  The ability of parties to comply with timetabling directions or orders is likely to be compromised.  Counsel and self-represented litigants are expected to confer and make reasonable accommodation and provide the Court with consented amendments to existing timetables.

7.  Only in the most exceptional cases where the parties are unable to agree and non-performance of timetable steps is causing material prejudice should disputed variations to timetabling directions be referred to the Court.  Any party found to have been unreasonable in failing to agree to a variation can expect there will be cost consequences.

8.  The Court will continue to deal with priority proceedings in accordance with the applicable criteria under the existing Practice Note for alert level 4.  The Court will issue further updates as the situation develops.


Operations under COVID-19 Past Alert Level 4

Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Venning
25 March 2020

1.  On 21 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced four levels of alert for COVID-19.  As of 11:59 pm, 25 March 2020, the country is at Alert Level 4.

2.  As an essential service dealing with the liberty and livelihood of New Zealanders, the High Court is committed to continuing to deal with priority proceedings to the extent it can do so safely in the current and developing environment.

3.  Given that the alert levels may remain in place for a significant period, and the country may move between levels, it is also important that the Court continues to carry on as much of its civil and criminal business as is safely possible under the circumstances.

4.  The situation has required the Court to re-evaluate how to conduct its business in accordance with advice received from the Ministry of Health and Prime Ministerial directives under the relevant legislation.

5.  It is important that during this period of disruption counsel co-operate to ensure that wherever possible, matters can be dealt with on the papers.

6.  At Level 4, the Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch registries will remain open to the public as essential workplaces staffed by the number of Judges, associates, clerks and registry staff necessary to conduct the priority proceedings under this alert level, either within the courthouse or from home.

7.  Circuit work will continue to be carried out for priority proceedings as far as it is possible using audio-visual link (AVL) and hearings by telephone.

8.  There will be no criminal jury trials and no civil trials.

9.  Hearings requiring oral evidence will only be held in urgent cases and AVL will be the default mode of appearance where evidence is required.

10.  In general terms the following are priority work areas of the Court:

  • Liberty of the individual
  • Personal safety and wellbeing
  • Matters in which resolution is time-critical.

11.  The Court has identified the following forms of proceedings which may fall into those categories:

i.  Custodial remands

ii.  Bail applications, appeals, and breaches

iii.  Habeas corpus applications

iv.  Remand, case review, sentencings and sentence indications which may affect custodial status

v.  Criminal appeals

vi.  Civil appeals including those from the Family Court involving care of children and Hague Convention issues

vii.  Applications by Police and Corrections authorities

viii.  Applications for civil remedies including injunctions, freezing orders and interim orders in judicial review proceedings

ix.  Urgent caveat matters

x.  Urgent probate matters.

12.  All currently scheduled work and new filings will be triaged to determine if they fall into the above categories and, if they do, whether they meet the above criteria.

13.  Although the Court will conduct as many hearings as possible by telephone and AVL, counsel may still need to appear in person in some limited cases.

14.  In addition, the Rules Committee is working to draft amendments to the High Court Rules to authorise electronic filing of documents, possible relaxation of reliance on unsworn affidavits in certain conditions and to facilitate the ability for the Court to conduct further remote civil hearings.

15.  The default mode of appearance for hearings under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 of applications and appeals will be by telephone.

16.  During the continuation of the level 4 alert all filing of court documents is to be by email.  If a party does not have the ability to file electronically, mail will still be periodically checked.  Because of hygiene requirements there will however be a delay in processing documents received by mail.

17.  No documents will be received for filing in person at court registries.

18.  For documents filed during the continuation of that alert (whether electronically or by mail), pursuant to the provisions of s 24 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, the payment of filing fees is hereby waived.

19.  All documents from proceedings in circuit registries are to be filed in the three home courts.

Addresses for filing electronically and by mail

All electronic filing is to be to the following addresses:

Auckland High Court:              aucklandhc@justice.govt.nz
Wellington High Court:           wellingtonhc@justice.govt.nz
Christchurch High Court:       christchurchhc@justice.govt.nz

If any party wishes to contact the court regarding an urgent matter, these emails are also the addresses to use. 

All filing by mail is to be to these addresses:

Auckland High Court
PO Box 60, Auckland

Wellington High Court
PO Box 1091
or DX: SX11199, Wellington

Christchurch High Court
20 Lichfield Street, Christchurch
or DX: WX10021, Christchurch


Suspension of new jury trials

18 March 2020

Chief Justice Winkelmann has decided to suspend all new jury trials for two months (PDF, 134 KB).  This will be kept under review and may be revised in light of any new advice received.

The Ministry of Justice are working to contact all affected court participants, including jurors.  If you were going to attend a trial within the next two months and are not sure about what this decision means for you, please call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) for more information.