COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions


 

Operations of the Federal Court of Australia

Is the Federal Court still operating?

Yes – the Federal Court is still operating, although the Court’s operations and practices have been affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See Section 2 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

Are the District Registries of the Federal Court still operating?

Yes – the District Registries of the Federal Court are still operating, however some changes have been made to protect the health and wellbeing of court users, staff, and the public, and access to the service counters of the District Registries of the Federal Court has been restricted.

See Section 2 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

 

Filing documents in the District Registries of the Federal Court of Australia

Can I attend a District Registry of the Federal Court in person to file documents?

To protect the health and wellbeing of court users, staff, and the public, access to the service counters of the District Registries of the Federal Court has been restricted. This means that there is no face-to-face service in the Court’s District Registries unless there are exceptional and urgent circumstances warranting the need for providing service in person. In exceptional and urgent circumstances, service in person may be provided after initial assessment by telephone.

How else can I submit documents for filing?

The Federal Court has electronic means available for lodging documents for filing. eLodgment is the Federal Court’s electronic lodgement platform. To ensure that the health and wellbeing of court users, staff, and the public is secured, the Court expects patrons to make every effort to lodge documents for filing using eLodgment.

See Section 3 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

I don’t have an eLodgment account. How can I set one up?

Visit eLodgment to view the information for new users, including user guides, registration information, FAQs and a checklist.

Can I lodge a document using facsimile services (fax)?

It is possible to lodge a document by fax, although a document containing more than 20 pages cannot be lodged for filing by fax. A document faxed to a District Registry of the Federal Court must be accompanied by a cover sheet on which is clearly recorded:

  • the sender’s name, postal address, telephone number, fax number (if any) and email address (if any), and
  • the number of pages transmitted; and
  • the action required in relation to the document faxed.

The sender of the document must keep the original document and the transmission report showing that the document was successfully transmitted, and the sender of the document must produce the original documents or transmission report if ordered to do so.

It should be noted that a document lodged for filing by fax will only be filed where payment of an appropriate filing fee has been made. Information about the Federal Court’s filing fees can be found on the Court Fees page. For information on how to make a payment for a document lodged by fax, please contact the relevant District Registry of the Federal Court.

Can I lodge a document via email?

eLodgment is the Federal Court’s electronic lodgement platform. The Court expects patrons to make every effort to lodge documents for filing using eLodgment. Where it is not possible to lodge a document by eLodgment, patrons may email documents, for the consideration of a Registrar, to the email mailbox of the relevant District Registry of the Federal Court.

It should be noted that any document lodged for filing by email will only be filed where payment of an appropriate filing fee has been made.

Information about the Federal Court’s filing fees can be found on the Court Fees page.

For information on how to make a payment for a document lodged by fax, please contact the relevant District Registry of the Federal Court.

What if I need to file documents in the High Court of Australia?

The Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory District Registries of the Federal Court also provide registry services for the High Court of Australia. As already noted, access to the service counters of the District Registries of the Federal Court has been restricted. This means that staff of the Federal Court’s District Registries will not serve patrons in person unless there are exceptional and urgent circumstances warranting the need for providing service in person. In exceptional and urgent circumstances, service in person may be provided after initial assessment by telephone.

 

Inspecting documents in the District Registries of the Federal Court

Can I still attend a District Registry of the Federal Court to inspect documents in person?

At first instance, all requests for the inspection of Court documents should be made to the relevant District Registry of the Federal Court by email. A person who has made a request to inspect Court documents will be notified, by a staff member of the relevant District Registry of the Court, of appropriate arrangements if personal inspection of documents is required. Detailed information about how to lodge a request to inspect Court documents is available of the Federal Court’s website.

See Section 5 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

 

Court listings and events

My proceeding is scheduled for a Court event. What should I do?

To the extent possible, alternative arrangement have been, and are being, put in place for listings and events, including scheduled listings and events, to be conducted using telephone and other remote access technologies.

Staff of the Court’s District Registries have been, and will continue to be, in contact with the legal representatives of parties, as well as self-represented parties, to determine whether proceedings can be conducted on the papers or via telephone or other remote access technologies.

Where proceedings can be conducted by telephone or other remote access technologies, proceedings will, accordingly, be listed or relisted.

If alternative arrangements are not able to be put in place for listings that would ordinarily require attendance in person, such listings, if already scheduled, will need to be vacated or adjourned, other than in exceptional circumstances, and then only with the express authorisations of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.

Staff of the District Registries of the Federal Court will endeavour to contact legal representatives of parties, and self-represented parties, at least two weeks prior to a scheduled listing.

If you are represented by a legal practitioner, you should, at first instance, either contact the legal practitioner representing you to determine whether your listing has been rescheduled.

If you are a self-represented party, you should, at first instance, check the Commonwealth Courts Portal, to determine whether your listing has been rescheduled.

 If, having checked the Commonwealth Courts Portal and, in the case of a party represented by a legal practitioner, having liaised with your legal representative, you are still unsure as to what is happening in relation to your listing or Court event, please send an email to NORTeam@fedcourt.gov.au at least 72 hours prior to any scheduled Court event, noting the proceeding number and title in the subject line of the email.

See Section 7 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

What are the arrangements for short listings and events, of half a day or less?

The Court will seek to accommodate any listings or events that would ordinarily require in person attendance for half a day or less without requiring in person attendance, either: (a) on the papers; (b) by telephone; or (c) by a combination of both of the above.

See Section 9 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

What are the arrangements for longer listings and events?

Longer listings and events that would ordinarily require in person attendance for half a day or more will undergo a triage and prioritisation process. Legal practitioners and parties should work cooperatively with the Court, and with each other, to identify how and when longer listings and events may be able to proceed.

See Section 10 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

My case is urgent. What should I do?

A triage process has been introduced for newly filed judge matters. Newly filed judge matters, other than urgent duty matters and Full Court and appellate matters, will first be provisionally allocated to the docket of the National Operations Registrar to be considered for allocation and a first return date.

See Sections 6 and 13 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

How do I communicate with the Court if I can’t go into a Court building?

The Court is continuing to conduct its business on the docket system so communications with the specific docket judge remain important as always.

See Section 8 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

What technology is the Court using to operate remotely?

All hearings before the Court (other than in truly exceptional circumstances) are currently proceeding using remote access technology. Currently, the Court is using Microsoft Teams and telephone conferencing in order to hear matters. It is anticipated that the number of available court rooms will shortly be adequate to enable wide spread access to remote technology for hearing purposes.

See Section 11 of the  Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

 

Signatures on documents and affidavits

I need to sign a Court document. Can I sign it electronically?

To facilitate the electronic filing of all documents, if access to scanning technology is limited, the Court will temporarily allow documents to be signed electronically. A person may also type their name in the relevant space in the signature block in lieu of applying a ‘wet signature’ or a digital signature.

See Section 4 of the Special Measures Information Note (SMIN-1) (pdf, 239 kb) for more information.

I am having difficulty locating a person before whom I can swear or affirm the contents of my affidavit. What should I do?

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court acknowledges that deponents may have difficulties with swearing or affirming the contents of an affidavit. The District Registries of the Court will accept unsworn affidavits for filing on the understanding that, if required, the affidavits will later be sworn or affirmed when circumstances allow.

 

Personal and corporate insolvency

I am concerned that, in the current economic environment, I will not be able to meet my payment obligations. Can the Court provide me with any legal assistance?

The Federal Court has been invested with jurisdiction to consider matters relating to corporate insolvency and personal insolvency (also referred to as bankruptcy).
As a court established under Chapter III of the Commonwealth Constitution, the role of the Federal is to consider and determine matters, appropriately commenced, according to law.

The Court cannot provide advice or legal assistance to people and companies in financial distress. Staff of the Federal Court’s District Registries are also precluded from providing advice or legal assistance generally and to people and companies in financial distress in particular.

For information about Court processes during corporate insolvency proceedings in the Court’s Corporations Lists, please refer to the Corporations Guide.

For information about Court processes during personal insolvency proceedings in the Court’s Bankruptcy Lists, please refer to the Bankruptcy Guide.