Law Commission looks at sweeping courts overhaul

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New Zealand’s Law Commission has proposed a re-evaluation of the country’s current courts system, calling for submissions from the public on how the system could be improved.

The Law Commission has listed several areas of improvement to be reviewed ranging from transparency surrounding the appointment of judges to the unification of District Courts.

A further proposal towards the courts system review would see high court judges being placed on specialist panels for areas of law that require particular fields of expertise, a system that currently operates efficiently in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia.

Grant Hammond, president of the Commission, said the primary focus of the Law Commission’s review is on the reorganisation, consolidation and modernisation of the current courts system in order to achieve greater accessibility while getting rid of areas of inefficiency.

“Since it was enacted more than 100 years ago, the Judicature Act 1908 has been amended many times, and other acts dealing with the courts have been passed alongside it,” says Mr Hammond.

“As a result, the statutes relating to our courts have a distinctly patchwork quilt appearance, and there are gaps and overlaps in the legislation.”

Mr Hammond also said that the review would clear up any confusion for the public, and in some cases lawyers, in understanding the judicial system as a whole.

The proposals discussed in the review paper include unifying the country’s 63 District Courts into one singular facility, creating specialist panels for High Court judges, an increase in transparency when judges are being appointed, a more efficient system for dealing with vexatious litigants overcrowding the courts system, and limiting the rights to a civil jury trial within High Court cases.

The closing date for submissions from professionals, the judiciary and members of the public will close on Friday the 27 April, 2012.

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Specialisation in the High Court is long overdue. It will improve the quality and speed of decisions, and may increase the number of quality candidates putting themselves forward for the High Court.

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