Understanding the Law
August 27, 2004
Civil Procedure Rules 2000

Procedures in the civil court are regulated by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR2000). However, these rules do not apply to (a) family proceedings, (b) insolvency (including winding up of companies), (c) non-contentious probate proceedings, and (d) any other proceedings in the Supreme Court instituted under any enactment for which there are already rules. {{more}}
The rules are distinctive in their application because of the inclusion of the overriding objective. The overriding objective of the rules is to deal with cases justly. Consequently some of the more adverse features of litigation have been eliminated.
In its application, the overriding objective enables the court to deal with cases justly when it interprets a rule or when it exercises any discretion given to it by a rule.
Accordingly, it is incumbent on the court to ensure that the parties are on equal footing and attention is given to saving expenses. In the allocation of judicial time and resources it must give consideration proportionate to the amount of money involved, the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues and the financial position of each party. The overriding objective ensures that cases are dealt with expeditiously and that the court resources are utilized effectively and efficiently.
Case management is one of the innovative aspects of CPR2000. Part 25 allows the master to further the underlying objective by actively encouraging and assisting the parties to settle the whole or part of their case in terms that are fair to them, or to use alternative dispute resolution where appropriate.
Part 26 allows the master to deal with preliminary issues, and direct the progress of the case in preparation for trial. The obvious result is that the judge is able to devote time to trials.
The most valuable assets are the provisions made for the flow of cases to be controlled by the court. Before the implementation of CPR2000 the court had little control over the flow of cases. Hence there were severe backlogs. It was not unusual for cases to be delayed for several years.
The rules dictate a pace once the matter is filed. Hence 14 days after the service of a claim form, the defendant within the state must acknowledge service and 28 days after the service of the claim form a defence must be filed at the court office (claim forms served overseas are given 28 days and 42 days respectively). Four to eight weeks after the defence is filed, a case management conference must be arranged. Provided there are no complex issues the master could fix a date for trial at the first case management conference. A simple case could be finally disposed of approximately five months after the filing of the claim form.
In the case of a fixed date claim, a date for the first hearing is given when it is filed. It therefore comes under the direct control of the judge who would deal with it immediately or provide a timetable. Cases are no longer adjourned sine die (indefinitely).
Provisions have been made for the service of documents by facsimile. In fact, Part 25 specifically encourages the court to make appropriate use of technology. Notices and court lists are sent to practitioners by e-mail. Court records are stored on computers making it easier to retrieve files.
Notwithstanding the 74 parts and 29 prescribed forms, Part 4 empowers the Chief Justice to make practiced directions and guides where the need arises. Indeed, the essentials for civil proceedings have been adequately covered by CPR2000.