A Brief Description of the Hierarchy

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A Brief Description of the Hierarchy of the Courts
In New Zealand, as in the United Kingdom and all other common law jurisdictions, there is a judicial hierarchy in which higher courts have superior power and status than lower courts. Lower courts in the hierarchy are bound to follow the previous decisions (precedents) of the courts above them. Generally there is a right of appeal to a higher court from a decision of a lower court.
There are a number of different courts operating in New Zealand with some specializing in a particular subject area and others having a general jurisdiction or general subject area.
Going from lowest to highest, the courts with a general jurisdiction are: The District Court, The High Court, The Court of Appeal and The Supreme Court.
It is very expensive to have a trial in these courts and, as a practical matter, recourse to them is out of reach for most New Zealanders unless the sum of money involved is high. For most people the recommended first step for disputes involving sums of money up to $20,000 is The Disputes Tribunals.
The Disputes Tribunals are attached to the District Courts, and so are found in most towns, but they themselves are not courts. These Tribunals do not involve judges, lawyers or legal jargon. They employ Referees who may (but do not necessarily need to) have formal legal qualifications. Proceedings are begun with a simple statement by the claimant saying what the dispute is about. Disputes Tribunals are intended to provide individuals and companies with the means of inexpensive, informal, quick and private resolution of disputes involving whether an amount is owed or how much of an amount is owed. A lawyer would call these questions of ‘liability’ and questions of ‘quantum’.
The jurisdiction of a Disputes tribunal is limited to an amount of less than $15,000, or if both parties agree, an amount less than…...

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