Civil Justice

In May 2004, the Attorney-General issued a Justice Statement indicating directions for reform of Victoria's justice system. The statement's concerns in civil justice included the need to streamline litigation processes, reduce costs and delays, and achieve unformity across different courts. Subsequently, in 2006, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to identify objectives and principles that should guide the reform of civil procedure to make it quicker, cheaper and fairer.  

Conducted under the guidance of full-time Commissioner Professor Peter Cashman, the review produced a consultation paper in September 2006, from which 62 submissions were received. 

A draft of reform proposals released in June 2007 received 32 responses, while a further set of proposals released in September 2007 received 19 responses. The Commission also consulted widely and visited many courtrooms to observe Victorian civil justice in practice. 

We identified a number of ‘priority’ areas for detailed investigation, which were examined in light of key goals of the civil justice system. We also considered existing jurisdiction, workload and organisation of the courts, and many other factors. 

In the final report tabled in Parliament on 28 May 2008, the Commission made 177 reform recommendations to reduce the cost, complexity and length of civil trials. 

The report suggests areas for future law reform and identifies changes which will reduce the cost, complexity and length of civil trials. The  major recommendations included:

  • the introduction of, and future expansion of,  pre-action requirements for communication and exchange of information 
  • improving the standards of conduct of participants in civil litigation
  • more alternative dispute resolution
  • facilitating more proactive judicial management of litigation
  • new mechanisms to facilitate earlier and more cost effective methods of disclosure 
  • enhancing judicial control over expert witnesses and expert evidence 
  • improving remedies in class actions
  • greater assistance to self-represented litigants 
  • more funding for interpreter services in civil proceedings
  • curtailing unmeritorious claims and defences and vexatious litigation
  • greater access to justice through the establishment of a new funding body - the Justice Fund
  • rationalising costs 
  • ongoing civil justice review and reform including through the establishment of a new body – the Civil Justice Council.

Implementation

In 2010, the new Civil Procedure Act 2010 (Vic) was introduced, which implemented many of the Commission’s recommendations. 

The Act aims to facilitate the ‘just, efficient, timely and cost-effective resolution of the real issues in dispute’. Its key reforms include:

  • introduce an overarching purpose for the courts and overarching obligations for participants in litigation,
  • strengthen the courts’ case management powers, including in relation to expert evidence and costs,
  • clarify the courts’ power to control discovery and to refer proceedings to appropriate dispute resolution 
  • simplify and liberalise the test for summary judgment.

For more information about the Act and an executive summary see Civil Procedure Act 2010 - A Brief Introduction.

Timeline

Current: Table in parliament

Full timeline:

Reference
Consultation
Submissions
Final report
Tabled in parliament
View full timeline

Project Publications

Civil Justice Review: Report

Launched on 28 May 2008, the Commission's Civil Justice Review: Report contained 177 recommendations to make civil litigation in Victoria cheaper,...

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Civil Justice Review: Recommendations

In its report of May 2008, the Commission made 177 recommendations for reform of the civil justice system, covering 11 areas. 1. Facilitating the...

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Civil Justice Review: Consultation Paper

In October 2006, the Commission published a consultation paper in its Civil Justice Review that included a list of questions about aspects of civil...

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Civil Justice: Terms of Reference

In September 2006, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to review the civil justice system in Victoria under the following terms of reference: 1...

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