Glossary of Legal Terms

To transfer a case before the Court to another date or time.

A written statement of facts, confirmed by oath or affirmation, which can be used to support an application or can be tendered by a party to proceedings as evidence in Court. Affidavits are often "filed" in the registry.

Alternative procedure agreement
A type of Indigenous land use agreement.

An application to a higher court to review a decision of a lower court or tribunal. For example, an appeal from a decision of a Federal Circuit and Family Court judge may be made to the Federal Court, and a decision of a single judge of the Federal Court may be the subject of an appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court.

Appeal books 
All documents that the Court needs to consider which are relevant to an appeal. A Registrar decides what documents should be included at an appointment to settle the index to the appeal papers, attended by the solicitors for the parties.

A person who appeals against a decision of a court. 

Appellate jurisdiction
The power given to a court to hear appeals in certain matters.

The individual, organisation or corporation who/which applies to the Court to start legal proceedings against another person or persons. Also known as 'plaintiff' in admiralty and corporations matters and in some other courts. 

The document that starts most proceedings in the Federal Court. Also used as a broad term for what the applicant is doing here: he or she is "making an application".

Application for extension of time 
If an application or a notice of appeal has not been filed and served within the time specified by the Federal Court Rules, then the Court or a Judge, if satisfied there are special reasons for the delay, may at any time give leave to file and serve the application or the notice of appeal.

Application for leave 
"Leave" is permission to do something. For example, if a person has left it too late to appeal (they are over the time set by the law), it may be possible for that person to ask the Court for permission to appeal anyway. This would be by an application for leave to appeal. 

Bill of costs
Usually, when a party loses a case, they will be ordered to pay the successful party's legal costs. To have the amount of these costs quantified, the successful party drafts a "bill of costs", which sets out the work done by the solicitor. See also 'costs' and 'taxation'. 

Cause of action
A technical term used in the Federal Court's electronic case management system to classify proceedings commenced with the Court. There are sixteen main causes of action and five supplementary causes of action. These classifications are different from the way in which the Court organises and manages its work, which is done through nine National Practice Areas (NPAs). See also National Practice Areas.

Compensation application
An application made by Indigenous Australians seeking compensation for loss or impairment of their native title.

Consent orders 
The Federal Court Rules allows the parties to consent to the making of an order filed in the Registry. If the Judge agrees to the order, the order may be made in chambers, without the parties needing to attend court.

This term is used for the legal fees and expenses of a party to a matter in the Court. On the determination of a case, the Court has the discretion to order that the costs of one party be paid by another party. It usually awards costs in favour of the successful party. 

Court book

A collection of documents with an index, containing the latest copy of all pleadings and all documents which the parties want to rely upon.
See also Digital Court Book

Creditor's petition
A document in which the creditor applies to the Court to make a person who owes them money bankrupt.

Cross appeal
An application by a respondent in an appeal also seeking a review of the lower court or tribunal decision and made in response to the appeal. A cross appeal is not required if the respondent is simply seeking that the decision of the lower court or tribunal be upheld.

Cross claim
A claim made in a proceeding by one party against a co-party, such as the first respondent (or defendant) against the second respondent (or defendant). However, if the claim in the proceeding is by one party against an opposing party, such as the respondent (or defendant) against the applicant (plaintiff), it is called a counter claim. A cross claim has to be closely connected to what is in dispute in the original claim or a counter claim.

Debtor's petition
A document filed with the Insolvency and Trustee Service of Australia, wherein the person who cannot pay his/her debts (the debtor) can apply to be made bankrupt without a Court hearing.

A document filed by a respondent in answer or response to a statement of claim setting out why the applicant's claims should not succeed.
See also Statement of claim

Digital court book
A court book in which the documents are stored and managed electronically. In the hearing, digital court books are displayed using software that allows them to be indexed, searched, filtered, referenced and managed. See also Court book

Orders made by the Court or a judge in relation to the conduct of a proceeding. Before the trial or hearing of a matter a judge may give directions so that the parties involved will be properly ready. The directions usually set down a list of steps to be taken by the parties and the deadline for those steps. The steps usually involve filing of material and defining the issues that require a decision by the Court.

A process by which the parties involved in a legal proceeding must inform each other of documents they have in their possession and which relate to the matters in dispute between the parties.

Docket system
A system by which each case is allocated to a particular judge who will then see the case through to completion. In the Federal Court the system is called the Individual Docket System (IDS).

Duty Judge
The Judge responsible for hearing most urgent matters, including the weekly Bankruptcy List. Judges, by rotation, act as duty Judge.

Electronic Court File
An electronic court file is a digital version of the Court file including all documents filed with the Court or created by the Court.

Entry of order
Written confirmation of an order made by a Judge. The registrar signs the order and puts a Court seal/or stamp on the document. The order is then "official" and "authenticated". 

A document or item produced in court for the purpose of becoming part of the evidence in a proceeding.

Filing of documents
The process of the Court accepting a document or documents lodged by a party to a proceeding.

First instance
A proceeding heard in the Court's original jurisdiction.

Full Court
Three or more judges sitting together to hear a proceeding.

That part of a proceeding where the parties present evidence and submissions to the Court.

A type of order made by a Judge whereby a certain party is ordered to do or not to do something.

Interlocutory application
Interlocutory proceedings are for dealing with a specific issue in a matter – usually between the filing of the application and the giving of the final hearing and decision. An interlocutory application may be for interim relief (such as an injunction) or in relation to a procedural step (such as discovery).

The final order or set of orders made by the Court after a hearing, often accompanied by reasons which set out the facts and law applied in the case. A judgment is said to be 'reserved' when the Court postpones the delivery of the judgment to a later date to allow time to consider the evidence and submissions. A judgment is said to be 'ex tempore' when the Court gives the judgment orally at the hearing or soon after.

The extent of legal authority or power of the Court to apply the law.

Individuals, organisations or companies who/which are the parties to a proceeding before the Court.

An officer of the Federal Court with the power to arrest ships under the Admiralty Act 1988

Mediation (or Assisted Dispute Resolution)
A process in which an impartial third party (the mediator) assists the parties in an attempt to bring about an agreed settlement or compromise, without requiring a decision of the Court.

National Court Framework
The National Court Framework is a number of reforms to the Court's case management approach.

National Practice Areas
Subject matter areas in which the Court's work is organised and managed. For a detailed list see the National Practice Areas page.

Native Title determination
A decision by an Australian court or other recognised body that native title does or does not exist. A determination is made either when parties have reached an agreement after mediation (consent determination) or following a trial process (litigated determination).

Native title claimant application/claim
An application made for the legal recognition of native title rights and interests held by Indigenous Australians.

Native title representative body
Representative Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander Body also known as native title representative bodies are recognised and funded by the Australian Government to provide a variety of functions under the Native Title Act 1993. These functions include assisting and facilitating native title holders to access and exercise their rights under the Act, certifying applications for determinations of native title and area agreements (ILUA), resolving intra- indigenous disputes, agreement-making and ensuring that notices given under the NTA are brought to the attention of the relevant people.

Notice of appeal
This is a document that is filed to start an appeal

Notice of discontinuance
Document filed by an applicant to stop proceedings. A party filing a Notice of Discontinuance will have to pay the costs of the other parties unless other arrangements have been made (usually by consent). 

On country
Description applied to activities that take place on the relevant area of land, for example mediation conferences or Federal Court hearings taking place on or near the area covered by a native title application.

Originating application
This is a document that starts the proceedings in the Court. It is generally an application or notice of appeal but, in admiralty proceedings, can be a writ.

Original jurisdiction
The authority or legal power of the Court to hear a case in the first instance.

People involved in a court case are generally called parties and include applicants, plaintiffs, appellants, respondents and defendants. Applicants or respondents can be individuals or corporations. There can be more than one applicant or respondent.

Practice Notes
The Court publishes National Practice Notes. Practice Notes are issued by the Chief Justice on advice of the judges of the Court. They are used to provide information to parties and their lawyers involved in proceedings in the Court on particular aspects of the Court's practice and procedure. (Administrative Notices, which were registry-specific practice notices, are no longer used by the Court). 

The regular and orderly progression of a lawsuit, including all acts and events between the time of commencement and the judgment.

A registrar is an officer of the Court who assists in the administration of the Court. Registrars can also hear certain types of cases. They are also referred to as Judicial Registrars and District Registrars. 

The Federal Court and Federal Circuit and Family Court Regulations 2022 which set the filing and other fees that must be paid in relation to proceedings in the Federal Court.

A document filed by the applicant in answer or response to a defence. See also Defence

Representative proceeding
When a group of applicants have claims against the same person and the claim is the same or similar, then proceedings may be commenced by one or more of those persons under Part IVA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976. Representative proceedings are also known as “class actions” or “grouped proceedings”.

Reserved judgment
Judgment is said to be "reserved" when a Judge needs time to consider all the evidence and arguments and postpones the delivery of the judgment after the hearing is concluded, to some later date to be advised by him/her.  

The individual, organisation or corporation against whom/which legal proceedings are commenced. Also known as a 'defendant' in admiralty and corporations matters and in some courts. In an appeal it is the party who/ which did not commence the appeal.

Rules made by the judges which set out the procedures for conducting a proceeding. The current rules of the Federal Court are the Federal Court Rules 2011, Federal Court (Corporations) Rules 2000 (for proceedings under the Corporations Act 2001 and, for a debtor other than an individual, Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 ), Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016 (for proceedings under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 and, for a debtor who is an individual, Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008) and Federal Court (Criminal Proceedings) Rules 2016.

Self represented litigant
A party to a proceeding who does not have legal representation and who is conducting the proceeding on his or her own behalf.

Setting down fee
  A fee that must be paid when a date is set for hearing a matter. It includes the first day's hearing fee and, usually, has to be paid at least 28 days before the hearing.

Statement of claim
In the Federal Court this is one of the documents that may be filed by an applicant when commencing a proceeding in the Court. A Judge or the Court may also direct the applicant to file a statement of claim. A statement of claim sets out the allegations (facts) which are the basis of the case.

A document issued in legal proceedings requiring a person to give evidence or to produce documents to the Court at a certain place and time. 

Taxing a bill of costs or taxation of costs is the process by which a registrar checks a bill of costs filed by a party to ensure that the charges are in accordance with the relevant scale of costs in the Rules and allowable as reasonable costs.

Taxation of costs: See Taxation

A person who holds property on behalf of another. A trustee in bankruptcy is the person who takes the property of a bankrupt for the purposes of distributing the assets for the benefit of the bankrupt's creditors.