Friday, 1st August 2014
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Federal Courts

On this page

Federal Court

www.federalcourt.gov.au

Telephone: (03) 8600 3333

The Federal Court hears most cases involving Commonwealth Laws.

The most common type of cases involve:

  • Human Rights
  • Trade Practices / Competition Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Disputes involving the Commissioner of Taxation
  • Intellectual property (copyright, patents, trade marks and designs)
  • Admiralty Law
  • Corporations Law
  • Bankruptcy Law
  • Migration Law
  • Unlawful discrimination
  • Privacy

Some types of cases can be heard in either State Supreme Court or the Federal Court. There are a number of differences between the Courts that lawyers weigh up in deciding which Court to use.

General information for the public This includes information about how cases are started in the Court, the assistance that is available for this and what is involved in attending Court.

The public are encouraged to obtain legal advice before considering issuing proceedings themselves in the Federal Court. Few people attempt to run a case here without a lawyer and there is a risk that if you fail that you may have to pay tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands of dollars) of legal costs to the other party.

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Administrative Appeals Tribunal

www.aat.gov.au

Telephone: (03) 9282 8444

Commonly referred to as the AAT.

Introduction to the AAT

The role of the AAT is to provide independent merits review of administrative decisions. The Tribunal aims to provide a mechanism of review that is fair, just, economical, informal and quick.

The Tribunal is an independent body that reviews a wide range of administrative decisions made by Australian Government ministers, departments, agencies, authorities and other tribunals. The Tribunal can also review administrative decisions made by State government and non-government bodies in limited circumstances.

The Application Process takes you through the steps involved if you are thinking about applying to the AAT yourself.

Federal Magistrates Court

www.fmc.gov.au

Telephone: 1300 352 000
or (03) 8600 3333 General

The Court overlaps with work done in the Federal Court and the Family Court. Those Courts tend to deal with the larger and more complex cases. Cases that are "everyday" (if there is such a thing) are usually dealt with in the Federal Magistrates Court as its procedures are simpler and more accessible. Just about all Family Law and Bankruptcy cases start in the Federal Magistrates Court.

Family Court

www.familycourt.gov.au

Telephone: 1300 352 000

For information on the Family Court go to our Family Law for the Public page.

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Representing Yourself

There is information about going to Court for a civil or criminal matter in The Courts Administration Authority.

Suing Or Being Sued

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

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.

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.

Arts Law Centre has a collection of information on recovering debts, including a sample letter of demand.

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

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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.

You can also read more about alternative dispute resolution at Working it out: Your guide to dispute resolution .


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:

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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.

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 our Federal Courts for Lawyers page.

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.