The Supreme Court of Queensland has announced seven judges have been assigned to implement proposed improvements to the state’s Commercial List.
Judges allocated to the Commercial List are Justices Peter Applegarth, Sue Brown, Thomas Bradley, Paul Freeburn, Declan Kelly, Sean Cooper and Melanie Hindman.
Justice Applegarth, who will be the Commercial List Principal Judge, said one improvement would be to dispense with the need to file an application to go on the Commercial List.
The proposed changes include a simpler process to go onto the list, and the assignment of Commercial List judges who will be able to hear both short and long commercial trials.
A new practice direction has been developed by Queensland’s Chief Justice Helen Bowskill – with assistance and consultation with members of the legal profession – and is expected to be issued in mid-January and apply from 30 January 2023.
Chief Justice Bowskill said the improvements will be beneficial for the swift resolution of matters.
“The Queensland economy and our collective welfare as a community depend on commercial disputes being able to be resolved without delay, justly, and by Judges who are suited to resolving commercial matters,” Chief Justice Bowskill said.
“We are lucky in this Court to have Judges with such strong and broad commercial experience to be called upon.”
Queensland Supreme Court Senior Judge Administrator, Justice Glenn Martin AM, said the court would establish a ‘user group’ of practitioners with whom the court will consult about how to further improve processes, including the electronic filing and management of documents.
The Commercial List provides the advantages of a docket system:
- Rather than a case passing through many judicial hands and being allocated to a trial judge shortly before trial, the Commercial List judge to whom a matter is allocated shortly after it goes on the list will be responsible, unless unusual circumstances arise, for the case management and trial of the matter.
- The parties will know who the trial judge is going to be.
- The judge will be familiar with the matter, will decide interlocutory applications (unless there is a good reason not to, for example in a matter about inspecting privileged documents), and make pre-trial directions.
The court, in a statement to QLS Proctor, said requests to be placed on the list could be made by completing a simple online form.
“The Commercial List Request Form is very much a ‘Tick a Box’ process, includes contact details, and tells the Court concisely (in 100 words or less) what the main issues are,” the statement said.
“That information will enable the Court to know if the case is an urgent one that goes on a Fast Track for a very early hearing, is a matter that will take a few days to try, or is expected to be a long trial.’’
“The matter will be allocated by Justice Applegarth to an identified Commercial List Judge.
“Thereafter, practitioners will have direct contact with that Judge’s Associate about reviews and other matters.”
To supplement the new practice direction, the court has developed notes for the use of practitioners about practical aspects of the list, preferred forms of directions and expert evidence.
The court said it would continue to consult the profession about how to improve the system for electronic filing in the Commercial List.
The current system for electronic filing in the Commercial List is in Practice Direction 21 of 2016. Early in 2023, the court will release a new note on electronic filing that improves on that system. The court is in the process of developing this with the profession’s input.
The new practice direction will apply to commercial matters commenced in, or transferred to, the Brisbane Registry.
A commercial matter filed in another region will be subject to case management in that region.
Commercial matters currently on the Supervised Case List or that are not currently on a list will transition to the Commercial List if they are suitable for that list.
The new practice direction states that parties may expect that, in matters that take five days or fewer to try, judgment will be delivered no later than approximately four weeks after the last day of the trial.
Justice Applegarth said: “We want new generations of Queensland lawyers to experience what some of us experienced as young lawyers.”
“Commercial cases that come on for trial as soon as they are ready for trial, that are tried by Judges who like doing those kinds of cases, and who deliver judgments without excessive delay.
“The new Practice Direction will apply to commercial matters commenced in, or transferred to, the Brisbane Registry. A commercial matter filed in another region will be subject to case management in that region. Commercial matters currently on the Supervised Case List or that are not currently on a list will transition to the Commercial List if they are suitable for that list.
“The new Practice Direction states that parties may expect that, in matters that take five days or fewer to try, judgment will be delivered no later than approximately four weeks after the last day of the trial.”