Changes to Federal Court Practice Notes

20 December 2019


On 20 December 2019, following consultation with the profession, the Federal Court issued the following eight (8) revised practice notes:

The practice notes took effect from 20 December 2019 and the Court will take a flexible and common sense approach to any issues arising from the practice notes being applied to existing proceedings.

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 [2019] FCA 1284 (Allsop CJ).

The Concise Statement Method will now be found at paragraphs [6.8] – [6.10] of 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 Industrial 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: [4.1] – [4.3]. Additional matters the parties should be ready to address at the first case management hearing [7.8(e) & (h)], the obligations of the parties where they become aware of a competing class action [8.1] – [8.6] and the duties and expectations imposed upon the applicant’s solicitor in seeking the Court’s approval to a settlement [14.3, 14.4, 15.4 & 15.5].
  • Employment and Industrial Relations (E&IR-1): the use of concise statements [4.2] – [4.4], additional matters the parties should be ready to address at the first case management hearing [5.3(a), (c), (f) & (j)], and dealing with evidence before the first case management hearing [4.6] – [4.8] and at trial [9.1] – [9.3].

Further information and feedback

The 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.