The Federal Court has recently reviewed and revised a number of practice notes. The changes include adoption of the Concise Statement Method into other National Practice Areas of the Court and updates to the practice notes about class actions, employment and industrial relations. The amended practice notes will be available from Friday 20 December 2019 on the Federal Court’s website and will take effect from that date. The Court has advised it will take a flexible and common sense approach to any issues arising from the practice notes being applied to existing proceedings. A summary of the updates is set out below.
Adoption of the Concise Statement Method into other National Practice Areas (‘NPAs’)
The majority of the changes concern the wider adoption of the Concise Statement Method into other NPAs of the Court. This follows its success in the Commercial and Corporations NPA where it was first introduced: see paragraphs [5.4] - [5.8], [6.8] and [6.9] of the Commercial and Corporations Practice Note (C&C-1)
The Court is moving away from process driven litigation that can be overly costly and slow and can limit access to the legal system. The Court encourages practitioners to consider the use of the Concise Statement Method where the key issues and facts at the heart of the dispute, and the primary legal grounds and relief sought, are required to be plainly and clearly identified, at an early stage, so that the docket judge can make tailored case management orders that deal with the real issues in dispute in a reasonable, proportionate and cost-effective way: Australian Securities and Investments Commission v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited  FCA 1284 (Allsop CJ).
The Concise Statement Method will now be found in the Central Practice Note (CPN-1) and is included as one of the Court's Case Management Imperatives. Consequential amendments have been made to the practice notes for the NPAs where the method will now be available, including: Administrative and Constitutional and Human Rights (ACLHR-1), Admiralty and Maritime (A&M-1), Employment and lndustrial Relations (E&IR-1) and Intellectual Property (IP-1).
Additionally, the Concise Statement Method continues as part of the Commercial and Corporations NPA (C&C-1) and retains its particular features within that practice note.
Changes to Class actions and Employment practice notes
The main changes to these practice notes are outlined below:
- Class actions (GPN-CA): the replacement of the 'docket judge' and 'case management judge' concepts with the 'class actions management judge' who will manage and deal with all interlocutory issues up until the class action is ready to be allocated for hearing. Additional matters the parties should be ready to address at the first case management hearing, including the identification of issues for preliminary determination, the financial basis upon which the class action is to be conducted and if any orders would impose financial obligations on class members. The obligations of the parties where they become aware of a competing class action and the duties imposed upon the applicant's solicitor in seeking the Court's approval to a settlement.
- Employment and Industrial Relations (E&IR-1): the use of concise statements, additional matters the parties should be ready to address at the first case management hearing, including considerations where a proceeding also seeks the imposition of a penalty on an individual. The manner in which the Court will deal with evidence filed at the commencement of a proceeding and at trial.
Further information and feedback
The Federal Court welcomes views in respect of its practice notes. Feedback should be provided by email addressed to Tuan Van Le, Judicial Registrar, at Tuan.VanLe@fedcourt.gov.au and should include a short summary of the key issues sought to be brought to the Court's attention and relevant contact details. Please copy any feedback to Elizabeth Ingham, Manager, Office of the CEO, Vic Bar at firstname.lastname@example.org.