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Commonwealth, tobacco firms could pay more

Sat August 4, 2012 2:01pm

BIG Tobacco, vexatious litigants and the commonwealth could all pay more to use the nation's courts under reforms designed to offer "legal off-ramps" out of the court system.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, speaking at a NSW Bar Association conference in Sydney on Saturday, said changes to court fee structures could encourage heavy users to resolve legal matters more quickly or stay out of the courts altogether, freeing up resources for needy groups and individuals.

"There are too many litigants and lawyers alike who expect all legal disputes will be settled at the end of a long and extensive courtroom brawl, instead of a sensible and timely out-of-court process," she told the room of lawyers and judges.

"It may be because 'I'll see you in court' sounds so much more exciting than 'I'll see you in alternative dispute resolution'.

"But we really have to get beyond this Hollywood view of what being in the legal system is like."

The government recovered only about 15 per cent of the cost of running the court system through the current fee structure, she said.

But she stressed a review of fee structures would not pave the way for a cost recovery model.

"We want people who use the court often to contribute a little bit more to the cost of running the courts," she told reporters after her address.

"That will catch big corporations who use the courts a lot, and I use Big Tobacco as an example because they're extremely litigious, but the commonwealth uses the courts a lot too."

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