The Queensland Court System has 5 levels of court jurisdiction and tribunals established by state legislation. Each jurisdiction has specific powers and the type of offence or dispute determines which Court or Tribunal is applied to.
QUEENSLAND CIVIL & ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL
QCAT can determine minor debt claims up to $25,000. It also deals with a variety of matters including building, dividing fences and tree disputes, guardianship and residential tenancy disputes. QCAT’s basic premise is that parties are self-represented and leave is required for your solicitor to appear. Legal costs are not generally recoverable in this jurisdiction.
This is the first level of court jurisdiction. It is the Court in which all criminal matters are initially brought. After the initial administrative matters are dealt with, individual matters are assigned to the appropriate Court, depending on the nature of the crime being dealt with. Minor matters are deal with the Magistrates Court sitting in various criminal jurisdictions such as domestic violence and drugs.
More serious crimes are moved to the District Court and major crimes such as murder are dealt with by the Supreme Court. The Childrens Court and the Coroners Court are also part of the Magistrates Court system. Civil claims for monetary disputes from $1 to $150,000 are filed in the Magistrates Court. For amounts below $25,000, minor debt claim rules apply and not all of your legal costs may be recoverable.
It is mandatory for parties to civil disputes to participate in a Court led Settlement Conference prior to a Request for Trial date being issued by a party. Most matters settle within 6 months or are brought to trial within 12 to 18 months.
This is the second level of court jurisdiction which hears more serious criminal cases. Civil claims for disputes between $150,000 and $750,000 are heard by the District Court. Property matters requiring declarations to be made by the Court or an exercise of discretion, must be filed in either the District Court or Supreme Court regardless if the monetary claim is below $150,000.
Parties to civil disputes are strongly encouraged to arrange a Mediation prior to commencing a trial. These matters usually settle within 12 months or can expect to proceed to a trial within 18 months if they cannot be settled. The Court will intervene if the matter is not actively progressing.
This is the highest court in Queensland. It deals with the most serious criminal and civil cases. The monetary minimum for disputes is $750,000. No upper monetary limit exists.
The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction over corporate insolvency matters, such as applications to have a company wound up. Such Orders are sought even where the monetary debt is only just above the statutory threshold which must be met before a company can be wound up. That threshold is $2,000. (Note that post 25 March 2020 the statutory threshold of $2,000 has been increased temporarily to $20,000 due to COVID-19. Refer to our article COVID-19 Positive Cash Flow for further information).
Parties in civil disputes are strongly encouraged to attend a formal Mediation and many judges will expressly direct the Parties to participate. It may take 2 years to reach trial due to the complexity of most matters heard in the Supreme Court and the case load which the Court must handle. A matter may be placed on the Supervised Case List and allocated a specific judge to oversee its timely progression to ensure a more efficient process. This does add a layer of cost but assists the Court in managing its resources and avoids stagnation of cases and delay.
COURT OF APPEAL
The Court of Appeal hears all appeals from the District and Supreme Courts and some tribunals. A panel of 3 to 5 Supreme Court judges are usual. There is no jury in Appeal cases.
We regularly commence, defend, act and appear in matters both criminal and civil before the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts. Each of our 4 offices are centrally located to the Courts for ease of access and avoidance of travel costs. We also have a strong network of interstate law firms and other firms in centres throughout Queensland which have us act as their town agent due to our experience and ability to leverage resources quickly due to our structure.
We regularly assist clients from behind the scenes with the preparation of their initial QCAT applications or with preparing submissions and framing desired Orders, to ease the burden on clients as they prepare for their appearance in person before the Tribunal. Many clients find this to be the most economical and efficient access to the Court system for minor debt claims and gives many the feeling that they are in control of their legal proceedings.
Please contact our Kirsten Woolston on (07) 3225 5628 for an initial consultation to discuss how we can help you solve your legal concern.