Courts resolve disputes between the state and individuals, or between individuals, through either the criminal justice system or the civil justice system.
New Zealand’s general courts are structured like a pyramid, with the Supreme Court at the top. Below it are the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the District Courts. These are ‘courts of general jurisdiction’. They are the main courts in our justice system.
If someone wants to appeal a decision made by a court, they appeal to a higher court to review the decision. For example, a case that is decided in a district court can be appealed to the High Court, or sometimes directly to the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the final appeal court, but hears only a small proportion of cases.
A decision by a higher court is binding on lower courts. Decisions of the Supreme Court, as New Zealand’s highest court, are binding on all other courts.
While most District Court appeals go to the High Court, in some criminal cases, an appeal can be made directly to the Court of Appeal. It will depend on the offence and whether a jury trial was elected.
Appeals from decisions of Community Magistrates or Justices of the Peace are heard by a District Court Judge.
Appeals from Tribunals and Authorities can be found in the law that establishes them. The line of appeal for tribunals and authorities may either be to the District Court, the High Court, or a specialist court or there may be no line of appeal.
The courts, tribunals and authorities listed receive administrative support from the Ministry of Justice except:
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