Question One: The existence of the court hierarchy means that there are courts that are superior to other courts. One reason for this is if you are unhappy with a decision from a particular court you can appeal your case to a higher court. Another reason for the existence of the court hierarchy is the doctrine of precedent. This allows courts higher in the hierarchy to create a precedent that all lower courts must follow, making sure all cases are heard in a similar manner. Another reason for the existence of the court hierarchy is specialisation. This means the courts are able to specialise in their particular area of law.
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Question Two: The Magistrates’ Court is the lowest court in the Victorian Court hierarchy. It has the ability to hear up to $100,000 for all civil disputes including personal injury. All disputes that are under $10,000 go to arbitration. In its criminal division, the Magistrates’ Court can hear summary offences such as minor assault and careless driving, indictable offences heard summarily, committal proceedings, bail applications and warrant issues. The Magistrates Court has no appellate jurisdiction. Question Three: If this case were to be appealed, it would go to the Supreme Court on a point of law, in its trial division.
The Supreme Court can hear unlimited amount civil claims. Question Four: Arbitration is calling in a third party called an arbitrator to listen to the facts of the dispute and make a decision on behalf of the parties. The decision made by the arbitrator is legally enforceable (binding). Private arbitrators may be asked to arbitrate on matters that were not able to be resolved through negotiation or mediation. Mediation is a joint problem-solving process in which the parties in conflict sit down and discuss the issue involved, develop options, consider alternatives and reach an agreement through negotiation.
The mediator does not interfere, but keeps the lines of communication open. Although a decision reached during the mediation process is not binding on the parties, parties tend to be more committed to a decision reached in this way and are more likely to uphold it. Question Five: Alternative dispute resolution is a lot cheaper than courts, due to lower fees – around $34. 20 to lodge an application. This is also because legal representation is not required, but without this representation, the parties involved may be unaware of their rights.
Alternative dispute resolution is also less formal and threatening compared to courts. This is because the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was set up for easy accessibility and for parties to have a clear understanding. Because it is so informal, parties may not be of equal bargaining strength, and one may exert influence over the other. Alternative dispute resolution aims to help preserve the relationship between the parties, as emphasis is on the resolution, rather than a win/lose situation. Although some parties may refuse to attend or withdraw at any time as alternative dispute resolution is voluntary.
Question Six A: The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal was established as an avenue of dispute resolution that is easily accessible to people in the community, using informal processes that are easy to understand. The tribunal aims to provide low-cost proceedings and timely resolution disputes, as well as experts in particular fields of law, such as anti-discrimination. Question Six B: The Residential Tenancies List of VCAT resolves disputes relating to tenancy agreements including agreements in relation to caravan parks and room houses, where the amount does not exceed $10,000.
Claims are made under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1948. Question Six C: One strength of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is the informal atmosphere. Hearings are less informal than using the courts and are not bound by the rules of evidence and procedure used in the courts. This can also be a weakness because some people may feel uncomfortable with the process of conciliation and the informal atmosphere of a tribunal, and may feel influenced into accepting a decision they are not satisfied with.
Another strength of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is the low cost of proceedings. For many proceedings the parties need only pay a nominal amount for filing their claim, for example $34. 20. Also because the parties are able to represent themselves, the cost is considerably less than taking a matter to court. Although this could become a weakness if the cost escalates if a party chooses to have legal representation or if a matter goes to appeal.