Notice to the Profession
Consultation - Full Court and Appellate sitting periods for 2025
16 November 2023
1. As foreshadowed in the Notice to the Profession dated 12 October 2023 (October Notice), the Federal Court of Australia has been considering the timing of its Full Court and Appellate sitting periods.
2. In the October Notice, I advised that the Court has decided to shorten the Full Court sitting period for February 2024. The February Full Court sitting period will now run for two weeks, commencing on 19 February and ending on 1 March 2024. In addition, the week commencing 12 February 2024 and ending on 16 February 2024 will be used to list migration Full Court and appellate matters that require expedition (particularly matters involving parties in immigration detention) and cannot await the May Full Court sitting period. The changes to the February 2024 sitting period recognise that listing Full Court matters in February requires the preparation of submissions, court books and lists of authorities during January, when many practitioners take well-earned leave.
3. The Court has been considering additional changes to its Full Court sitting periods and has undertaken an analysis of the number of matters listed and the number of judge sitting days in each Full Court period for the past three years. Following that analysis, the Court proposes to move to three Full Court sitting periods in 2025, with the first period being in March and the other two periods remaining in August and November.
4. The main reasons for this proposal are as follows:
(a) the profession and parties will not be required to prepare for appeals in January, when many take leave;
(b) it will give judges substantial blocks of time to list more matters and lengthier cases in the original jurisdiction, providing parties and practitioners with greater flexibility in listing trials; and
(c) it is anticipated that the realignment of judges' workload will have a positive impact on the time between the filing of appeals and the delivery of judgment.
5. It is also proposed that the August Full Court sitting period will be extended to five weeks, commencing in the last week of July rather than the first week of August. This is to recognise that the August sitting period will need to capture all appeals filed between the start of the year and May, and is therefore likely to be the busiest list. March and November will remain as four week sitting periods. There are no school holidays in March and it is not usually interrupted by Easter or other holidays.
6. Consistently with existing practice, where appropriate, Full Court matters requiring expedition will be listed outside the Full Court periods.
7. The Court's usual practice has been to communicate with practitioners as to their available dates before listing Full Court and appellate matters. This practice will continue. Under the proposal, practitioners could expect to be contacted as follows:
(a) for the March list, practitioners would be contacted in November, and the list for March would be finalised by the end of November;
(b) for the August list, practitioners would be contacted in late April/early May, and the list for August would be finalised by mid-May; and
(c) for the November list, parties would be contacted in August, and the list for November would be finalised by the end of August.
8. If the proposal is implemented, the likely Full Court periods for 2025 would be as follows:
(a) 3 to 28 March 2025;
(b) 28 July to 29 August 2025; and
(c) 3 to 28 November 2025.
9. The profession is invited to provide feedback on the proposal to move to three sitting periods for 2025. Feedback is requested by no later than Friday 15 December 2023, and should be provided by email to the Appeals Registrar at email@example.com.
10. Following the consultation process, the Court anticipates reaching a final view on Full Court sitting periods for 2025 by the end of February 2024. Dates for 2025 Full Court sitting periods will be published shortly thereafter.
Chief Justice Mortimer
16 November 2023