2.2 Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is New Zealand’s intermediate appellate court. Located in Wellington (the Court also regularly conducts hearings in Auckland and Christchurch), the Court of Appeal hears:

  • civil and criminal appeals from proceedings heard in the High Court
  • criminal appeals from jury trial proceedings in District Courts (see 2.4)
  • appeals on questions of law from the Employment Court.

The Court of Appeal has a critical role in developing legal principle, error correction and maintaining consistency in lower court determinations. It supervises through appeal, the judgments of the High Court and ensures consistent application of the law in the High Court. In practical terms, the Court of Appeal will continue to be New Zealand’s principal appellate court, and for most litigated cases it will in effect be the final appellate court.

The Court sits as a Full Court in panels of five Judges to hear matters of exceptional importance.  This seldom happens more than twice a year.  All other Permanent Court appeals are heard by panels of three Court of Appeal Judges.

In order to assist with the heavy workload of the Court, it sits in divisions to deal with routine appeals, as authorised by ss 47 and 48 Senior Courts Act 2016.  Criminal appeals are allocated to a Divisional Court unless the President directs otherwise.  Divisional Court panels consist of one permanent Court of Appeal Judge and two High Court Judges.  This also recognises the insights which Judges with current trial experience bring to appeals. The court sits as a full court (consisting of five permanent Court of Appeal judges) to consider the most significant cases.

The Court of Appeal deals with civil and criminal appeals from matters heard in the High Court and serious criminal matters from the District Court. Matters appealed to the High Court from the District Court and certain tribunals can be appealed to the Court of Appeal with leave but only if a second appeal is warranted.  The Court may also grant leave to hear appeals against pre-trial rulings in criminal cases and on questions of law from the Employment Court.

The Court of Appeal is located in Wellington but also sits in Auckland and Christchurch.