Introduction

The Federal Circuit Court has established Panels for various areas of general federal law jurisdictions.

The Court sees the establishment of panels in its specialist jurisdictions as an important stage in the ongoing development of the Court. The Court believes that the Panel system will best enable it to use its judicial resources effectively according to its jurisdictions and to maintain the Court's commitment to the economical, less formal and prompt disposition of its workload.

The Panels provide an opportunity for members to develop and maintain expertise in the jurisdictional areas allotted. The Panels that have been, or are proposed to be established, are set out at the end of this Note. The Court advises that the Panels have been established in order to ensure that work is handled by Federal Circuit with expertise in the area and with a commitment to allocating appropriate priority to the cases assigned to them. The Court also advises that diary rules adopted for 2006 are intended to ensure that cases in these jurisdictions will be dealt with generally within a target time frame of six months after filing.

The Federal Circuit Court maintains its commitment to serving the community in rural and regional Australia by travelling to country centres to hear cases when requested and facilitating hearings through the use of video link, telephone directions and electronic filing.

Panels

The following Panels have been established in major Registries of the Court.

Administrative Law Panel

This includes:

Admiralty Panel

This includes all applications under the Admiralty Act 1988.

Commercial Panel

This panel is sub-divided into:

  • bankruptcy (and corporations law if jurisdiction is conferred) which includes all civil claims and matters arising under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (except those requiring jury trials), 

  • intellectual property including copyright (civil claims and matters under Parts V, VAA, IX and Section 248J of the Copyright Act 1968), and Trade Mark and Design, including appeals from decisions of the Registrar of Trade Marks under the Trade Marks Act 1995 and appeals from decisions of the Registrar of Designs under the Designs Act 2003, and 

  • consumer law which includes claims arising under specific sections of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.  The Court also has civil jurisdiction with respect to claims under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009

Industrial Law Panel

The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court for matters under the:

  • Fair Work Act 2009
  • Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009, and
  • Workplace Relations Act 1996 (in so far as it continues to apply).

This jurisdiction is to be exercised by the Fair Work Division of the Court.

The Fair Work Act 2009 confers small claims jurisdiction on the Court for various matters if the compensation is not more than $20,000.

The Court also has jurisdiction in relation to certain matters under the Independent Contractors Act 2006.

Human Rights Panel

This includes all applications under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 to hear and determine complaints of discrimination under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Age Discrimination Act 2004.

National Security Panel

This includes applications made to the Federal Circuit Court as an issuing court under the anti-terrorism legislative package.

Further Panels will be established as the Court is granted additional jurisdiction. The Court may also modify the panel composition over time.

Convenors of Panels and allocation of applications to Panel Members

The Chief Judge will appoint a Convenor for each Panel, the Convenor being responsible for the allocation of applications to Panel members.

Cases are allocated randomly to judges by the Registry (following instructions from Convenors) and a docket management system is adopted. Once an application which falls within a panel jurisdiction is docketed to a judge on the Panel, it will generally remain with that judge.

Urgent Applications

Urgent applications will be dealt with in accordance with Part 5 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001. The Registry will be the first contact point for any urgent applications received in normal business hours. District Registries can provide information on the means of making urgent applications in particular jurisdictions, both during and outside of ordinary business hours. Urgent applications in Panel cases made out of business hours will be considered by the duty judge, who may, depending on the circumstances, make arrangements for urgent applications to be referred to a Panel member.

Panel liaison with practitioners

Panel Convenors will establish appropriate specialist liaison groups with relevant practitioners.

Composition of Panels

A table identifying the Panel Convenors and Members can be found on the Specialist Panels in General Federal Law page.