The Supreme Court of New South Wales has had a specialised Commercial List (at one point a separate Commercial Division) since December 1903, only eight or so years shorter than the time that such a list or its equivalent has existed in London.  As one would expect, it has been marked, not only by specialised knowledge of commercial matters in the judicial officers assigned to the list, but also by the specialised procedures for expedited determination of commercial disputes. Other specialised lists are provided for, including technology and construction matters.

Expedited procedures include early consideration of reference out and mediation, the use of technology prior to the hearing and during the hearing, and potential for ‘stopwatch’ hearings with pre-allocated time blocs for aspects of the hearing. These enhance the broad directional powers in the usual Court rules and the underpinning legislation, with an overriding purpose (expressly legislated) to facilitate the just, quick and cheap resolution of the real issues in the proceedings. There is power for hearings ‘on the papers’ or with limited oral evidence and submissions.

Similar outcomes are achieved in other Australian superior courts in relation to significant commercial, construction and technology matters. In the Federal Court, for instance, there is the current implementation of national practice areas (such as commercial and corporate matters with sub-specialties including international commercial arbitration) to coordinate on a national basis the existing case management by docket by appropriately-experienced judicial officers.

Jan-Mar 2016 issue

5 Wentworth Chambers