Court users commence proceedings by preparing and filing documents at the Court registry. Each jurisdiction has different rules which are set out in legislation as to how to commence proceedings. Below is an overview, but it is always best practice to refer directly to the specific rules as set out in the legislation.
Court users can also start private prosecutions for criminal matters however it is recommended you speak with the police before doing so.
Local Court (criminal) - Getting Started
The procedure is set out in the Local Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Rules. The person who is starting the proceedings before the court is known as the 'Complainant' and the person answering the charge is the 'Defendant'.
A criminal charge is laid (started) in the Local Court by a document called a Complaint or an Information depending on how serious the charge is as alleged. You have to present to a registry of the Local Court and you must include in your Complaint or Information, the date and time you say the offence took place, the name and date of birth of the Defendant, and what law you say has been broken.
If you have sufficient information then the charge will be entered into the system and a date will be set for the first mention. It will be then up to you to serve a summons on the defendant to get them to court.
Local Court (civil) - Getting Started
The procedure is set out in the Local Court (Civil Jurisdiction) Rules. Rules 5.05 and 5.06 identify the documents which commence proceedings which are a 'statement of claim' or 'originating application'. Generally, the person making the claim is called the 'Plaintiff' or 'Applicant' and the person claimed against is called the 'Defendant' or 'Respondent' (for consistency in this guide parties are referred to as Plaintiff and Defendant). Rule 5.09 sets out in more detail what might be required in the document.
At the same time as the Statement of Claim/Originating Application is prepared the Plaintiff must also prepare a document called a “List of Documents”. This is dealt with in rules 16.01 and 16.02. This document is a numbered list in date order describing all documents, including such things as film or video or a recording on a camera or phone or other device, which the Plaintiff has or can get hold of which might have anything to do with their claim.
Documents can be filed at a Local Court Registry. There will be a filing fee to be paid. The Plaintiff must file one copy of each document for themselves, one copy of each document for the Court, and one copy of each for each defendant. The registry will stamp and date each copy of each document. It will keep a copy of each document for itself and return all other copies to the Plaintiff.
It is the Plaintiff’s job to organise serving one dated and sealed copy of each of the Statement of Claim and the List of Documents on each Defendant. It is always a good idea to prepare an affidavit by the person who serves the documents, setting out five pieces of information:
- who they served;
- how they identified the person served;
- precisely what documents they served;
- the place and address where they served them; and
- the time and date when they served them.
This affidavit of service will be needed if the Defendant does not respond.
A Defendant has 28 days after being served to respond by filing and serving their Defence and also their List of Documents. Rules 5.09 and 5.10 apply to a Defence.
The Defence should start by setting out the Defendant’s response to each numbered paragraph of the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim. The Defence should use numbered paragraphs too. The Defendant can admit, not admit or deny each of the claims made in each paragraph of the Statement of Claim. If a Defendant denies something they have to go on and set out what they say are the correct facts.
A Defendant can raise other matters later in the Defence if they want to, after first responding to the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim.
A Defendant must prepare and file and serve a List of Documents listing the documents the Defendant has or can get hold of which have anything to do with the Plaintiff’s claim or the Defendant’s defence. This List of Documents must be filed together with the Defence, otherwise it will not be accepted by the Court registry.
A Defendant must file one copy of each document for themselves, one copy of each document for the Court and one copy of each document for each Plaintiff (if there is more than one). There is no filing fee for a Defence. The registry will date and stamp all copies of each document, keep one copy of each for itself, and return the rest to the Defendant. It is then the Defendant’s job to serve one copy of each document on each Plaintiff.
The Court will notify the parties of a time and date to meet before a registrar of the Court to discuss the issues, to sort out any management steps, and to list the matter for hearing. There might be one or two of these meetings over a few weeks. It is not likely the registrar will allow more than that.
If the Defendant does not file a Defence within 28 days of being served with a Statement of Claim and List of Documents then the Plaintiff can ask the Court to give judgment for the Plaintiff.
This can be done by filing an affidavit of service by the person who served the documents on the Defendant, plus an affidavit by the Plaintiff setting out what if anything the Defendant has paid since the Statement of Claim was filed, and asking for judgment for the balance plus interest and costs.
Work Health Court - Getting Started
The parties to a workers’ compensation case are known as the 'Worker' and the 'Employer'.
A Worker cannot start proceedings in the Work Health Court unless and until a dispute with an Employer has been identified and that dispute has first been mediated by a mediator organised by a government body called NT WorkSafe.
A dispute might be the Employer’s denial of the Worker’s claim for compensation, or if the claim was accepted there might be a later dispute about what benefits the Employer will pay for, or again if the claim was accepted the Employer later on might notify the Worker that payments of benefits are being stopped. Whatever the dispute, the Worker needs to write to NT WorkSafe identifying the dispute and asking for a mediation.
If the mediation does not settle the dispute then the Worker can start proceedings in the Work Health Court.
Some disputes need a request for mediation to be made in writing within 90 days after the dispute arises. If the request for mediation is not made within those 90 days then the Worker is barred from asking for mediation, and from going to Court.
After a mediation is held the mediator will issue a document called a Certificate of Mediation, which will be dated. The Worker must file documents at the Work Health Court to start proceedings within 28 days of that date.
These time limits can be extended by the Court but there is no guarantee that will happen. It is much safer to take action before the time limits run out.
The procedure before the Work Health Court is set out in the Work Health Court Rules.
The first document to start proceedings before the Work Health Court is called an 'Application'. It is a simple document which sets out the names and contact details of the Worker and the Employer, and any lawyers involved with either. It identifies the issue before the Court in a multiple choice way.
The Worker must also prepare a second document. This is called an 'Index of Documents'. This is a list in date order of all medical documents of any sort the Worker has or can get hold of, and also the original workers’ compensation claim form and the Employer’s response to that, and any documents about the dispute between the Worker and the Employer. Copies of all these listed documents must be attached to each copy of the Index of Documents. The detail of what is needed in an Index of Documents is set out in rule 5.02(2) of the Work Health Court Rules.
A Worker must file a copy of each document for themselves, a copy of each document for the Court and a copy of each document to be served on the Employer. The registry of the Court will stamp and date the documents, keep one of each for the Court and return the other copies to the Worker.
The Worker will then need to serve one stamped and dated copy of each document on the Employer.
The Employer has 14 days from being served to file and serve its own Index of Documents, as well as a document called an 'Appearance'. This document says that the Employer is now involved in the proceedings, and it sets out the Employer’s and its lawyer’s contact details. If the Employer does not file an Appearance in time then the Worker can apply to the Court for judgement against the Employer for compensation to be assessed. This is called 'default judgment' and it is covered by rule 21.01 of the Work Health Court Rules.
If the Employer does file an Appearance then after a few weeks the Court will write to the Worker and the Employer giving them a time and a date to appear before a registrar to discuss the case and make directions to get it ready for a hearing if it does not settle.