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New title to reflect importance of Federal Magistrates Court

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon today confirmed the name of the Federal Magistrates Court and title of Federal Magistrates will change to better reflect their important role in the judicial system.

The Government will now consult with the Court as to what the name of Court and the title of Magistrates should change to before bringing forward legislation to make the changes in the Spring sittings of the Parliament.

“Since the Federal Magistrates Court was first established in 2000, the number and complexity of cases coming before it have increased,” said Ms Roxon.

“The Court’s jurisdiction has expanded to include matters as diverse as family law, migration and consumer protection law.

In 2010-11 alone, the Court finalised over 74,000 cases inside six months, with another 9,200 finalised within 12 months.

“The Court is also the only federal court with a program of regular regional circuits, bringing judicial and dispute resolution services to 33 rural and regional communities last year,” Ms Roxon said.

“I also consider that the title of ‘Magistrate’ no longer adequately reflects the expanded role and responsibilities of an FMC judicial officer working in a Chapter III federal Court.”

Ms Roxon said the proposed changes dovetail with the Government’s court reform agenda to provide greater certainty around the role of each of the federal courts and establish a new court, the Military Court of Australia.

“Plans to change the name of the Federal Magistrates Court and the title of Federal Magistrates form part of the Government’s wider court reform package aimed at improved judicial transparency, accessibility, and timely resolution of disputes,” said Ms Roxon.

“Clarifying the Court’s identity with a new name will clarify for the community what the court does and how it can help resolve disputes.”

“Likewise, changing the title of Federal Magistrates will recognise their status as federal judicial officers and avoid confusion with State and Territory Magistrates.”

The Government’s consultations will consider a range of names for the Court, including a circuit court, or a trial court. The Government is aiming to complete the consultation by the end of August.

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