There are three jurisdictions that deal with civil law ACT. These are the Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT), the Magistrates Court, and the Supreme Court. Each have specific jurisdictional requirements and can only determine matters that fall within their jurisdiction.
The Magistrates Court will only hear claims or disputes with a value of up to $250,000. However, if your matter is less than $10,000 it must be heard in ACAT. The Supreme Court can determine any matter, but is generally restricted to matters over $250,000, and all probate, wills and estate matters.
Civil law ACT encompasses a large range of matters. It is important to obtain legal advice to ensure that your matter is commenced in the correct court or tribunal. With the right assistance, many matters can be resolved through mediation or negotiation without the need to initiate court proceedings to get a resolution.
Commencing Civil Proceedings in ACT
Not only does ACAT deal with all civil disputes of less than $10,000, it is also hears matters relating to residential tenancy disputes, retirement villages, energy and water, mental health, and guardianship. In regard to civil disputes there are several different application types which can be heard by ACAT. These include contract, damages, debt recovery, goods, trespass, nuisance, debt declaration, and common boundary disputes.
Once you have filed the appropriate application then ACAT will serve it on the Respondent. The Respondent will then have 21 days to file a response. All matters before ACAT will involve the parties participating in a case conference in an attempt to settle the matter prior to it being set down for hearing.
If you believe an error was made by the Tribunal in the decision handed down then you can lodge an appeal within 28 days in the Appeals Tribunal. Either you, or the tribunal, can elect to have the matter heard in the Supreme Court if the appeal raises an issue of law, or if the application raises an issue of public importance.
Commencing Civil Proceedings in the ACT Courts
Whether you are commencing action in the Magistrates Court or Supreme Court, to initiate proceedings you must file an Originating Claim, and Statement of Claim. There are different Statement of Claims depending on your type of matter, so it is important that you file the correct one along with the Original Claim.
Once the Claim and Statement of Claim have been filed in the Court they must be served on the Respondent. The Respondent will then have 28 days to file a defence. If they fail to do so you can apply for default judgment.
If a defence has been filed the parties must file a signed Certificate of Readiness for trial. The matter will then be set down for a pre-hearing conference. At the pre-hearing conference the registrar will attempt to settle the matter by reviewing the facts, in the hope to narrow down the issues in dispute. If there are still issues in dispute the matter will be set down for a hearing.
All appeals from the Magistrates Court, or the Supreme Court, must be filed within the ACT Court of Appeal. If your appeal is unsuccessful in most civil law ACT cases, a costs order may be made against you.
Civil Law Legislation in the ACT
There are many different pieces of legislation that govern civil law ACT; this is mainly due to the wide area that civil law encompasses. The main legislation that governs the rules and procedures in regard to commencing civil actions is contained in the Court Procedures Act 2004, and the Court Procedures Rules 2006. However each court and tribunal also has their own legislation governing jurisdiction, and procedural requirements; such as the Magistrates Court Act 1930, the Supreme Court Act 1933, and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.
If your matter doesn’t relate to a liquidated damages claim or debt recovery, then you will also need to be aware of individual legislation that governs your matter as to the type of damages you can be awarded. These can include such acts as the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, Leases (Commercial and Retail) Act 2001, and the Building Act 2004.
Each type of civil law has different statutes of limitations that you must be aware of when an action arises, which governs the timeframe you have to commence proceedings. The limitations are contained either within their specific Act, or the Limitation Act 1985.