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Civil Procedure Reform in Victoria

by Richard Manly

Richard Manly SC Vicbar CPD.

The main purpose of the Act is to reform and modernise the laws, practices, procedure and processes for the resolution of civil disputes which may lead to civil proceedings in the courts and in respect of the initiation of proceedings in the courts (Section 1). The Act aims to change the culture of litigation in Victoria to promote a more non-adversarial model of dispute resolution through:

i)            earlier disclosure of information;

ii)          greater use of Appropriate Dispute Resolution (Section 3); and

iii)         improved case management powers for the court.

The Act aims to redress the imbalance in the civil justice system to achieve essential goals of accessibility, affordability, proportionality, timeliness and getting to the truth quickly and easily. The Act gives substantial effect to the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission presented in the Civil Justice Review Report 14 published in March 2008. Once a dispute is entered into the civil litigation system it will be subject to new procedures (Chapters 3, 4) designed to assess the most expeditious and cost effective way for that dispute to be resolved including by Appropriate Dispute Resolution (Part 5) and for it to be actively case managed by the relevant court until disposition. The Act marks a significant change in approach to the resolution of civil disputes by setting overall objectives (Chapter 2) and seeking to resolve many disputes before they are entered into the civil litigation system (Chapter 3).

The Act is also aimed at promoting the just, efficient, timely and cost effective resolution of disputes and applies to all Victorian Courts, but not to VCAT or other Tribunals (Section 1(1)(c)). The ‘Overarching Purpose’ (Section 7) of the Act and Rules of Court in relation to civil proceedings that will be a foundational guide to the courts when exercising civil jurisdiction is to facilitate the just, efficient, timely and cost-effective resolution of the real issues in dispute.

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