Wednesday, 27th September 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.

Supreme and Magistrates Courts

For information about how to contact each of these Courts and where to find their Rules, Forms and Fees, go to:

The Magistrates Court is limited to dealing with cases up to $65,000. This limit can be increased if the parties agree. Cases under $5,000 are dealt with as Minor Civil Claims.

There are no upper limits on the cases in the Supreme Court.

Suing Or Being Sued

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.

Very few people sue or defend a case in the Supreme Court without a lawyer. The rules and procedures are more complex and the value of what is at risk is higher.

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

Minor Civil Claims

Disputes involving claims less than $5,000 are dealt with as Minor Civil Claims in the Magistrates Courts.

Unless there are special circumstances, no lawyers are involved. The idea is that these disputes should be settled as fairly, quickly and cheaply as possible.

Tips For The Self-Represented

  • 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.

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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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.

Ombudsmen

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

Attending Court

Going to Court for the first time can be a daunting experience.

There are some useful sites that can assist you when you go to Court for a civil or criminal matter:

In NSW they call their Magistrates Court a "Local Court". Some of the Rules are different between NSW and Tasmania, but they give good advice on how to prepare for Court and what to expect.

The Clerk of Court and his staff are the Tasmanian equivalent of "Chamber Registrars". They won't give legal advice, but they will provide free information about how the court operates.

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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:

Tasmania 3 courts lawyers judges supreme 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.

General Information

There is no online legal handbook for Tasmania. The Law Handbook Online for South Australia is excellent, up-to-date and easy to use.

While we caution about using any legal material from interstate, it can be useful to get a feel for a legal topic to see how the Law works in South Australia. This at least will give you a general understanding of how lawyers and the Courts approach a legal problem. You can then start to look for information on the Law as it applies in Tasmania.

WARNING: Information from interstate web sites should not be relied upon without legal advice. The law and courts often vary a lot between States.