How cases come to court
The Supreme Court can hear and determine an appeal by a party to a civil proceeding in the Court of Appeal against any decision unless a statute provides that there is no right of appeal, or the decision is a refusal to give leave or special leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court can hear and determine an appeal by a party to a civil proceeding in the High Court against any decision unless a statute provides that there is no right of appeal, or the decision is a refusal to give leave or special leave to appeal to the High Court or the Court of Appeal, or the decision was made on an interlocutory application.
The Supreme Court can hear and determine an appeal against a decision made in a civil proceeding other than in the Court of Appeal or High Court only if a statute provides for the bringing of an appeal.
The Supreme Court can hear and determine criminal appeals specifically authorised by Part 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.
Appeals to the Supreme Court can be heard only with the leave of the court. It must not give leave to appeal unless it is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice for the court to hear and determine the proposed appeal.
It is necessary in the interests of justice for the Supreme Court to hear and determine a proposed appeal if:
- the appeal involves a matter of general public importance;
- a substantial miscarriage of justice may have occurred, or may occur, unless the appeal is heard;
- the appeal involves a matter of general commercial significance; or
- the appeal involves a significant issue relating to the Treaty of Waitangi.
In general, the court will only hear appeals coming from the Court of Appeal. The Court may however, in exceptional circumstances, give leave to appeal a decision of a lower court.
The Supreme Court Rules 2004 set out the procedural requirements that need to be satisfied in applying for leave to bring an appeal.
The parties to an application for leave may make written submissions to the court but neither the parties nor their representatives have a right to appear before the court on the application unless the court allows this. Any two or more judges can act as the court in deciding an application for leave but the court sits as the full bench of five judges when dealing with any substantive appeals.
Where the court grants leave to appeal, the matter will proceed to a substantive hearing before the full bench of five judges in Wellington.
At the hearing, the Chief Justice, or in the Chief Justice's absence the senior judge, presides from the centre chair. Other judges are seated to right and left of the Chief Justice in order of seniority of appointment. Counsel or the litigant moves to a lectern to address the court, and having finished his or her submissions, returns to the bar table.
The Supreme Court sits in sessions during the year.