The challenge of new areas in the civil jurisdiction

Judge Philippa Cunningham — District Court Judge

The nature of work in the District Court’s civil jurisdiction is always increasing in type and complexity which makes it both challenging and interesting.

I work part of my time in the civil area. It can be a welcome change from the criminal work I do mostly. Relatively recently there have been new areas of practice for the District Court involving both the criminal and civil aspects.

Image of Judge P Cunningham.Many people will be aware that certain New Zealanders who have served a sentence in Australia are being returned to New Zealand. Applications are made in the civil jurisdiction by probation officers asking the court to approve the conditions for these people while under supervision here.

Similarly, victims of violent offences who want protection from offenders through non-association orders make an application to the court’s civil division.

In March 2017, the maximum for claims that can be filed in the District Court increased from $200,000 to $350,000. This is expected to lead to more civil claims in the District Court.

In most civil cases, there is an emphasis on judges trying to help people to settle their disputes, both because of the cost of litigation and to reduce the court’s workload. This occurs in a formal settlement conference involving the parties, their lawyers and the judge.

Many cases are successfully settled at settlement conferences and it is satisfying to be able to assist people to bring an end to their dispute in this way.

"In most civil cases, there is an emphasis on judges trying to help people to settle their disputes because of the cost of litigation to them and to reduce the court’s workload"