Supreme Court Flexes Muscle

The New Zealand Supreme Court is a “baby” in a legal history sense.  It was established on 1 January 2004 by the Helen Clark led Government.  Subsequently, there have been a variety of decisions where the Supreme Court has displayed a willingness to exert its muscle.  

In Almond v Read & Others [2017] NZSC 80 Neville Woods of Rice Craig, acting on behalf of Second and Third Respondents, actively defended an appeal to the Supreme Court in relation to an Application for an Extension of Time to Appeal to the Court of Appeal.  The Plaintiff had lost her case on all points in the High Court, then appealed to the Court of Appeal, but was one day out of time.  This triggered the procedural requirement to obtain leave from the Court of Appeal to extend the time to appeal.  The Court of Appeal thought the Plaintiff’s appeal was hopeless and refused to grant an extension of time.  The Plaintiff then sought, and obtained, leave to appear before the Supreme Court, arguing that the Court of Appeal should hear her case more fully before dismissing it as hopeless in a summary way. 

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Rice Craig argued on behalf of the Respondents that any factual assessment of the High Court Judge’s finding(s) was indeed hopeless and this was one such case where, although the technical non-compliance with time was non-consequential, the appeal must necessarily fail in time.  The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and granted an extension of time to appeal to the Court of Appeal.  In doing so it was, in effect, requiring the Court of Appeal to make fulsome decisions in all situations where non-compliance with time to appeal does not cause significant prejudice.  The requirement of the Court of Appeal to write a fulsome decision in all cases means the Supreme Court has then sole jurisdiction to determine appeals from those cases.

 In brief, our Supreme Court put the Court of Appeal in its place by requiring it to produce a full judgment in these kinds of cases, which is then potentially appealable to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court had flexed its muscle.

Ultimately, the result in Almond v Read & Others was not substantively altered, in that the Court of Appeal now dismissed the Plaintiff’s appeal following a full appellant hearing. Neville Woods, acting on behalf of the Respondents, says “careful consideration is required in determining the appropriateness of exercising an appellant right”.  The Rice Craig litigation team remains committed to ensuring success at all levels of our judicial system. 

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