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Starting a legal action

Starting a legal action (called a ‘proceeding’) can be very expensive and time consuming. Usually, the party who loses will be made to pay the other side’s legal costs. It is always best to try to resolve your legal problem outside of the courts if possible.

If you choose to represent yourself it will be important that you understand the rules and legislation that govern the court process.

The methods available for starting a legal action – writ, originating motion, affidavit and originating process – are governed by legislation and the Supreme Court Rules. Supreme Court Registry staff may be able to provide procedural guidance, but the decision about the appropriate way to start your legal action must be made by you – the plaintiff.

Before starting a legal action

Before starting a proceeding you must read and understood the overarching obligations set out in sections 16-26 of the Civil Procedure Act 2010 (External link).

You will also be need to complete and submit to the Court the 'Proper Basis Certificate - Form 4B' and the 'Overarching Obligations Certificate – Form 4A' certifying that any allegations you make have a proper basis and that you have read and understood your obligations under the Civil Procedure Act.

Commencing an action by writ or originating motion

Most legal proceedings are started by filing a writ. A proceeding may be started by filing an originating motion where it is unlikely that there will be any substantial dispute of fact. But usually, proceedings are started in this way when there is no defendant or where an Act, or the Supreme Court Rules, requires it.

You also need to develop your ‘statement of claim’. Your statement of claim must clearly state the nature of your allegation and cause of the claim, as well as the Act (if any) under which your claim is being made. It will also need to specify the orders that you are seeking the Court to make (that is, the relief or remedy that you want the Court to impose).

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