Saturday, 16th 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.

Victorian Department of Justice

www.justice.vic.gov.au

The Department of Justice encompasses police; courts; prisons; emergency services; regulation of gaming, racing, liquor licensing and trade measurement; and victims' services.

Their web site has a lot of information and links on many legal topics that relate to Court Cases in Victoria. 

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

There is also the Courts and Tribunals Victoria web site. While it is a useful resource to access each of the Courts, it does not have the same general information for the Public.

VCAT Small Claims

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

www.vcat.vic.gov.au

VCAT has simplified procedures that may be applied in Small Claims.

Parties are encouraged to resolve the dispute without the need for a trial and to represent themselves.  Where the claim is for $10,000 or less, in almost all circumstances parties must present their own case. Lawyers will not be allowed.  If more than $10,000 is in dispute, lawyers are sometimes allowed to represent those involved.

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 Civil Claims Workbook assists consumers (purchasers) who are in dispute with a trader (supplier) about the quality or performance of goods or services, and who are considering making a claim through the Civil Claims List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Are you representing yourself? is a guide for people conducting civil court cases in the County Court on their own without a lawyer.

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.

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.

This is the Dispute Information web site. It has information on alternative dispute resolution, A Guide to Dispute Resolution and information on other people who can help. It also steps you through some common situations and how they might be resolved.

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:

Tips For Going to Court

If you have a lawyer, then they will tell you what you should do. If you choose to go to Court without a lawyer, then:

  • 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.
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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:

Victoria 3 courts lawyers judges vcat 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.