Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Courts to get powers to block vexatious legal action

The Government is modernising legislation that covers much of how the court system operate.
The Government is modernising legislation that covers much of how the court system operate.

Courts will get powers to block vexatious litigants, under legislation set to pass its final hurdle tomorrow.

Orders will restrict people from starting or continuing civil proceedings that may have "limited, extended or general effect".

The High Court will be able to issue three progressively stronger orders, and lower courts will be able to make similar but less restrictive orders.

The Government says this will provide greater flexibility for dealing with a small group of problem litigants who use up court time to pursue "meritless" action.

The orders are included in the Judicature Modernisation Bill, a lengthy omnibus bill that aims to simplify and modernise the law around how courts operate.

Largely administrative, there were few controversial aspects in the legislation - but continuing to require judges to retire once they turn 70 was opposed by Labour.

Its justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said there was no good reason to set such a limit, and the Human Rights Act made clear discrimination on the grounds of age was unlawful.

However, the Government believes a retirement age is a necessary safeguard, which other countries have put in law.

Labour did succeed in changing the legislation to explicitly commit to parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law. It will support the legislation during third reading tomorrow.

The main provisions stem from the Law Commission's report on its review of the Judicature Act of 1908 - one of New Zealand's oldest statutes still in force.

Most are not new, but are described with more modern language in an attempt to provide greater clarity.

Some of the more notable provisions include:

• Allowing the use of electronic processes by courts. Currently, some activities such as the filing of documents can be legally performed using paper-based formats.

• Requiring final written judgments to be published online.

• Improving the sharing of court information such as protection or restraining orders through information-sharing agreements permitted under the Privacy Act.

• A new judicial panel will be set-up in the High Court to hear particular types of commercial cases.

• Increasing the monetary limit of the District Court's civil jurisdiction from $200,000 to $350,000.

For its final reading, the legislation has been split into 23 separate bills.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 22 Oct 2016 06:56:42 Processing Time: 876ms