It is well known that litigation is a costly and lengthy
process. Legal fees can run into several hundreds of thousands of
dollars and sometimes millions of dollars, and it can take several
years before a trial is conducted.
Some courts in the USA have been attempting to deal with this
problem for some time. These courts have become known as the
"rocket dockets" because of the speed and efficiency with
which they deal with cases.
Fortunately, Australian courts are also taking steps to deal
with the problem. On 1 May 2007, the Federal Court introduced a
"fast track list" as a pilot program with the aim of
reducing the cost and length of litigation, and it certainly seems
to be working. A trial in the "fast track list" can be
expected to be held within 3˝ to 6˝ months of the
proceeding being commenced and the Court will endeavour to deliver
the judgment within 6 weeks of the trial. That is, a total of 5 to
8 months from commencement of the proceeding to receipt of
judgment. This is nearly as good as the fastest "rocket
docket" court in the USA, the Western District Court of
Wisconsin, which has a median time of 4.8 months from the date of
filing to finalisation of the proceeding. Of the 43 matters
commenced in the Federal Court "fast track list", most
have been finalised within 8 months of being commenced or are on
track to do so. The consistency and quality of judgments in the
"fast track list" should be the same as cases heard in
the other court lists.
Costs are also substantially less in the Federal Court
"fast track list". Parties are only required to provide
case summaries rather than formal pleadings, which means no more
costly disputes about pleadings and particulars of pleadings. A
party is only allowed to request limited discovery of documents
from another party, and discovery may only be allowed after
affidavit evidence has been filed. Also, trials are conducted
according to the "chess-clock" style. That is, each party
is allocated a fixed amount of time for submissions, evidencein-
chief and cross-examination, and each party must determine how best
to allocate and use that time.
Most cases which can be heard in the Federal Court can be heard
in the "fast track list". This includes most commercial
and intellectual property matters. At the moment, only cases
commenced in the Victorian Registry of the Federal Court can be run
in the "fast track list". Hunt & Hunt was involved in
a trade mark infringement dispute in the "fast track
list". A trail was scheduled to be held within 6 months of the
proceeding being commenced and the proceeding was resolved within 4
The cost and length of litigation is often a strong factor in
determining whether to commence or settle a court proceeding. Given
the recent global financial crisis and the Australian economy
seemingly slipping into recession, businesses will be looking for
more ways to reduce costs. Therefore, anyone who is considering
whether to pursue a claim through the courts and is concerned about
the cost and length of litigation, should now give serious
consideration to bringing the proceeding in the "fast track
list" if the dispute is within the Federal Court's
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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