1. LPC Civil Litigation Introduction

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The Courts

The Civil Courts

There are two main civil courts that hear cases at first instance, namely the County Court and the High Court.

The County Courts

There are over 200 County Courts across England and Wales, each of which serves a different area. Both Circuit and District Judges sit in the County Court and under the County Courts Act 1984, they have jurisdiction to deal with the majority of civil cases including breach of contract, personal injury, debt, divorce, adoption and housing disputes.

The High Court

The administrative centre of the High Court is at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Outside London, administration is through provincial offices referred to as District Registries.

The High Court is split into three divisions, the Queen's Bench Division, the Family Division and the Chancery Division, each dealing with a different type of work.

The Queen's Bench Division

The Queen's Bench Division or QBD deals with non-specialist matters but also has a number of specialist courts. Non-specialist matters include libel and slander cases, contract and tort cases, including personal injury cases with a value above £50,000, non-payments of debts and possession of land or property. Judicial review cases are also heard by the QBD. Specialist courts include the Technology and Construction Court, Commercial, Admiralty and Administrative courts.

Family Division

The Family Division has jurisdiction over matrimonial matters and the dissolution of civil partnerships. The division also deals with domestic violence, wardship, adoptions and medical treatment cases.

Chancery Division

The Chancery Division deals with claims involving partnerships, trusts, contentious probate, intellectual property, land, professional negligence, commercial disputes. It has two specialist courts - Companies and Patents.

Appeals

The Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) Order 2000 governs the relevant appeal court, whilst the actual procedure is governed by CPR 52. The provisions mean that appeals are made as follows:

County Court Appeals

  • Appeals from a county court District Judge are to a county court Circuit Judge.
  • Appeals from a county court Circuit Judge lie to a High Court Judge.

High Court Appeals

  • Appeals from a High Court District Judge are to a High Court Judge.
  • Appeals from a High Court Judge are to the Court of Appeal.
  • Appeals from the Court of Appeal are to the House of Lords.

NB. If a final decision in a multi-track case or specialist court is made by a Circuit Judge, an appeal lies to the Court of Appeal.

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