Monday, 11th December 2017
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State Courts

On this page

Criminal Law

This page is mainly about Civil Courts - people suing and being sued.

If you are looking for information on Criminal Law then visit our Public Criminal Law page.

QCAT

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

www.qcat.qld.gov.au/

QCAT is the Tribunal where members of the Public are most likely to conduct legal proceedings on their own.

The role of QCAT is to resolve disputes involving:

  • Tenancy / Leases
  • Body corporate and Community management
  • Integrated resorts developments, manufactured home parks & Sanctuary Cove Resort issues
  • Retirement Villages
  • Dividing Fences up to the value of $25,000
  • Debts up to the value of $25,000
  • Consumer and Trader disputes up to the value of $25,000
  • Legal Costs disputes
  • Property damage (cars and houses for example)
  • Building work
  • Reviews of government decisions regarding children and youth
  • Complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Reviews of the administrative decisions of Government

QCAT can also appoint a Guardian or Administrator to handle health, lifestyle and financial issues for somebody who is no longer able to look after their own affairs.

courts lawyers judges qcat supreme court county court magistrates court suing being sued defending court case

The QCAT web site is very easy and useful about the procedures in that Court. It does not though have information to help you know you legal rights, whether you are likely to win a dispute and what would be a fair amount to demand or settle for. Use the Practice Pages of Foolkit to find that information. Or, Legal Aid Fact Sheets & Guides.

QPILCH has as Self Representation Service QCAT that provides free legal advice and assistance to people involved in QCAT proceedings.

Usually you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you in QCAT. Unless yours is a very simple and clear matter, it is still a good idea to seek legal advice before starting any proceedings in QCAT (or any mediation). You can then proceed with confidence as to the strengths and weaknesses of your case, any alternative options and a clear idea of what you are seeking and what would be an acceptable outcome.

Any legal dispute is often as much about the facts as it is about the law. Who was driving over the white line, what did the salesman actually say to you or what would be a fair price to repair the damage ....? A lawyer can help you work out what facts you will need to prove, where to find that information and who would be good witnesses for your case.

Suing Or Being Sued

QPILCH provides a free Representing yourself in Court advice service in civil disputes in the Supreme and District Courts.

The Law Handbook (South Australia) has a chapter on this. Under the heading of Minor Civil Claims they go through the steps involved in a Court Case. With some modifications the same principles apply to any Court case and it is useful background information for you even if your case involves larger amounts of money and you will be using a lawyer.

Law Handbook (Victoria) has helpful advice on dealing with a range of disputes. This link is to their advice about disputes over money.

Queensland Public Interest Law Clear House set of fact sheets is also very good at explaining different aspects of what is involved in a Court case.

Debt recovery - small claims procedure has a collection of information on recovering debts, including a sample letter of demand.

If your case involves the Federal Court then QPILCH has a Self Representation Service for this.

Foolkit has a page on DIY Legal Kits. You may also find more focused information about your legal problem on that page.

Acts, Regulations, Rules & Forms

Are you looking for detailed information like this, or contact details for any of the bodies mentioned on this page. If so, then start on the Courts Pages on the blue For Lawyers pages.

If it isn't there, then start on our Finding Detailed Legal Information page.

Please read our warning on that page "Be careful using these resources".

The Law is not always as straightforward as it appears. We have not included any information about when and how to use that information or any traps. We assume that the Lawyers will know this.

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Please give us feedback about your experiences using Foolkit and ideas for improvements.


 

Alternatives To Court

Going to Court can be costly, emotionally draining and drawn out. Some Court cases take many years to conclude. There are alternatives to going to Court. Often it pays to look into these methods of dispute resolution before launching into litigation. Talk to your lawyer about alternatives including settlement conferences, mediation and arbitration.

For a very general explanation on the various types of alternative dispute resolution:

The The Legal Services Commission Handbook (South Australian) has a chapter on resolving disputes.

Dispute Resolution Centres

web site

This is a free service of the Queensland Government.

They assist people to resolve their disputes by mediation or facilitation .

Tips For Going to Court

If you are to Court without a lawyer, we suggest:
  • Always dress neatly and appropriately for Court.
  • Arrive on time and introduce yourself to Court staff.
  • Familiarise yourself with the facts of the case, any documentation that is relevant, and be ready to relay this information to the Court in a clear and concise way. Make copies of important documents in case the Court or the other party requests one.
  • Never interrupt or speak over the Magistrate or Judge.
  • Be polite and respectful to the other party and to Court staff.
  • Use all opportunities to settle the matter earnestly and know to what extent you are willing to compromise.
  • Listen to the Magistrate or Judge. If he or she recommends you get some legal advice, then you should seriously consider doing so. The Court will put off the case to allow you time to do this.

Courts FAQS

Courts with Frequently Asked Questions pages are:

Magistrates Court - explore your area of interest from the menu on the left hand side and "Representing yourself in court" in the top menu.

QCAT - see our comments above. Their web site is very easy to use and helpful.

The staff at all the Courts are very helpful to the public. They can't give you any legal advice, but they can answer your questions about:

  • what Court you should use,
  • legal procedure, and
  • where to get more help.
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Costs Orders

A court not only decides who the Winner and Loser are, it also decides who is to pay for the legal costs that are involved. These are the Court's fees as well as the costs of the solicitors and barristers.

Sometimes who will pay costs, and how much they will pay, is negotiated between the parties. Your lawyer will explain to you what is occurring in respect to costs as the matter unfolds.

Prior to a trial there will be short hearings (that may be called directions, status or interlocutory hearings) or applications that your lawyer will attend on your behalf. If you are self-represented you will attend these hearings that guide the case towards a resolution or a trial. At the end of each short hearing there is usually an order made about who will pay the costs of that part of the case once the matter has concluded. Some common orders include:

Queensland 3  courts lawyers judges qcat supreme court county court magistrates court suing being sued defending court case

Costs in the Cause: The ultimate loser of the case will pay the costs of the hearing.

Costs Reserved: The question of who will pay costs will be determined at a later date.

Here are some simplified explanations of legal speak when it comes to costs. NOTE: Always check your retainer (agreement) in place with your lawyer as to how they define these terms:

  • Professional Fees: Work your lawyer has done
  • Disbursements: Out of pocket expenses (barristers fees, report costs etc)
  • Solicitor/Client costs: Costs which a lawyer charges their client for legal services provided directly to the client, for example, giving advice and taking instructions
  • Party/Party costs: the legal services necessary to run a matter in Court, for example, preparing Court documents and letters to the other party.

When the Court orders one party to pay the costs of the other party, it means its party/party costs. Party/party costs are always less than solicitor/client costs (often around 60 to 75%). Thus the 'winner' of any litigation is usually left out of pocket in respect of their legal costs to this extent.

Party/party costs are determined according to the appropriate Court Scale; i.e. if you are in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court scale applies. Your agreement with your own solicitor may provide for paying their fees on some other basis.

Ombudsmen

The Ombudsman can assist you with your complaint about the administrative actions of a government agency or authority, or local government council.