DIFC COURTS’ SERVICES
This guide has been created with the intention to disperse knowledge of the multifarious services offered by the DIFC Courts. This would be the one stop source to understand the kind and levels of services offered in a simpler and comprehensible form. It provides a brief insight into each of the services that are offered by the Courts Registry team to ensure speedy and efficient delivery of justice.
ABOUT DIFC COURTS
The DIFC Courts were established under two laws enacted by the late Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai. Dubai Law No. 12 of 2004 (as amended by Dubai Law No. 16 of 2011) established the DIFC Courts, describes the jurisdiction of the Courts and provides for the independent administration of justice in the DIFC. DIFC Law No: 10 of 2004 sets out the powers, procedures, functions and administration of the DIFC Courts.
These established laws ensures that the highest international standards and provides certainty, flexibility and efficiency in the legal procedures.
The DIFC Courts carry out their functions in an independent manner, in accordance with the provisions of the DIFC laws and regulations.
The DIFC laws allow for any institution operating within the DIFC to select a legal jurisdiction of its choice, other than the DIFC, when entering into contracts. However, in the event that parties do not do so, the DIFC laws will be applicable by default and they can file a case in the DIFC Courts.
The DIFC Courts have jurisdiction over civil and commercial matters only and not over criminal matters. All criminal matters are referred to the appropriate external authority.
The DIFC Courts consist of a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal.
Court of First Instance
This Court shall comprise of a single Judge and shall have exclusive jurisdiction over:
- Civil or commercial cases and disputes involving the DIFC, any of the DIFC’s bodies or any of the DIFC’s establishments.
- Civil or commercial cases and disputes arising from or related to a contract that has been fulfilled or a transaction that has been carried out, in whole or in part, in the DIFC or an incident that has occurred in the DIFC.
- Objections filed against a decision made by the DIFC’s bodies, which are subject to objection in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations.
- Any application over which the Courts have jurisdiction in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations.
Court of Appeal
This Court shall be comprised of at least three Judges, with the Chief Justice or most senior Judge presiding. The Court of Appeal would have exclusive jurisdiction over:
- Appeals filed against Judgments and Awards made by the Court of First Instance;
- Interpretation of any article of the DIFC’s laws based upon the request of any of the DIFC’s bodies or the request of any of the DIFC’s establishments provided that the establishment obtains leave of the Chief Justice in this regard. Such interpretation shall have the power of law.
The Court of Appeal lays down the final order or judgement of the Courts and no appeal shall lie from a decision of the Court of Appeal.
DIFC COURTS’ SERVICES
1. REGISTRATION OF PRACTIONERS
The Register is in two Parts:
Part I. Law firms only:
Entry in Part I shall be in the name of a firm. The firm shall provide a list of practitioners employed by the firm and who are authorised to issue and conduct proceedings on behalf of the firm. Every lawyer authorised by a firm to issue and conduct proceedings on its behalf may appear before the Registrar or Deputy Registrar for hearings without the need for registration in Part II.
Part II. Individuals with rights of audience before the Court:
Whereas Registration in Part II of the Register will be provisional until the individual concerned appears before a judge. An individual applying for registration in Part II of the Register should give the Registry not less than 7 days’ notice of their intention to appear before a judge. The First hearing would be attended by the Registrar, Deputy Registrar or Assistant Registrar. In the event of refusal following the first hearing, the individual concerned may place a written and reasoned appeal before the Chief Justice.
For further details – refer to DIFC Courts Order No. 1 of 2015. All practitioners should abide by the DIFC Courts’ Code of Conduct. As from 1 December 2012 Part I (firms) and Part II (practitioners) can register on-line in the DIFC Courts’ Register of Legal Practitioners. To register visit our website www.difccourts.ae or contact email@example.com.
The DIFC Courts eRegistry service allows you to file claims and all subsequent case related documents electronically, 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Court fees can be paid and complex cases can be managed remotely from your PC. This enables easier access to your case and further provide you with the updates and required documents from anywhere around the world.
To use the eRegistry service you will need to be registered with the DIFC Courts. For more information about the eRegistry please visit our website www.difccourts.ae or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. BUSINESS VISIT VISA
The DIFC Courts have introduced an initiative to enable lawyers overseas visit the Court situated in Dubai with much ease. The Courts offers Business Visit Visa Services for lawyers with rights of audience that reside outside of the UAE. The Courts provide Business Visit Visa for 30, 60 or 90 days to appear before the DIFC Courts.
- Applicants must have rights of audience before the DIFC Courts by being registered in Part II of the DIFC Courts Register of Practitioners.
- Applicants must provide proof and confirmation that their visit is for a specific hearing confirmed as listed by the DIFC Courts.
- Applicants must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of their application.
The applicant’s home address and the place in the UAE that the applicant will stay on his/her visit with telephone numbers.
- A clear photocopy of the personal details page of the applicant’s passport.
- A scanned colour passport sized photograph of the applicant. All personal photos scanned with applications should be original, colour photographs with a white background (size: 3.5cm x 4cm).
- A statement describing the hearing for which the applicant is scheduled to appear.
Kindly note that the above listed requirements are the standard requirements for the visa application and DIFC Immigration reserves the right to ask for others. For the fee structure and more information on Business Visit Visa visit our website www.difccourts.ae or contact Nilofer Dsouza at email@example.com.
4. PRO BONO PROGRAMME
DIFC Courts introduced the Pro Bono Programme in 2009 as one of the first Pro Bono Programme in the Middle East. This initiative allows individuals who cannot afford a lawyer the ability to seek free advice and representation from volunteer lawyers and is headed by the Pro Bono Programme Leader, Amna Al Owais. The Programme is a public expression of the DIFC Courts’ mission to provide swift, transparent and accessible Justice to Court Users and to ensure that all parties are on equal footing in proceedings before the Courts.
A successful applicant may use a full range of legal services from basic advice to full case management and representation during proceedings. Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria will have their case details sent to volunteer firms and practitioners.
The Pro Bono Programme is only applicable to the Court of First Instance; pro bono services cannot apply to those bringing claims in the Small Claims.
The Pro Bono Programme is a scheme set up for those who cannot afford legal representation. The main criterion, therefore, is the need for legal representation based on the inability to afford it. The merits of the case – that is, whether the case has a reasonable chance of success if it goes to trial – are also taken into consideration.
Litigants wishing to seek representation by a lawyer, so that they can open a case, must apply to the Programme Leader, briefly describing the nature of the claim, their financial position and the type of remedy sought. Potential applicant forms are available on our website www.difccourts.ae. The non-affordability of lawyers must be proved by evidence when applying for the Pro Bono Programme.
If at any point during the case a litigant is in the financial position to be able to afford legal representation, he or she is responsible for notifying the volunteer law firm or practitioner and the Programme Leader. Failure to notify the same may result in him/her being held liable for the legal costs and fees otherwise waived under this Programme.
Pro Bono Clinic
The Clinics are held on a regular basis throughout the year (announced on our website www.difccourts.ae). They offer potential pro bono litigants one-to-one quality time, in confidence, with a registered pro bono volunteer who is always a legally qualified practitioner and is often a specialist in-house legal counsel. He/she can advise the potential litigant on possible case scenarios and offer a course of action – or can provide the pro bono litigant with a wide range of options for further consideration.
No appointments are necessary for the Pro Bono Clinics, which operate on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. For those who do not wish to attend the Pro Bono Clinic, online services are available. A link can be found on the DIFC courts website, www.difccourts.ae, enabling you to directly contact the Pro Bono Programme with any queries regarding the free legal advice service offered by the DIFC Courts. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost Free Trial
A pro bono litigant may be entitled to a cost free trial where he/she will not have to cover the legal costs of the opposing party or parties, even if the pro bono litigant loses his/her case. If the pro bono litigant wins his/her case, then the costs will be paid for by the other party into the Pro Bono Fund. The litigant shall only be entitled to receive a cost free trial once an application has been approved by the Pro Bono Cost Free Trial Panel.
Volunteer Law Firms and Practitioners
Law firms and individual practitioners wishing to participate in the Pro Bono Programme should be registered and in good standing under Part I or Part II of the DIFC Courts’ Register of Legal Practitioners. Each individual and firm should complete a registration form (available on our website www.difccourts.ae), including the contact details of the firm’s liaison associate for pro bono matters. This should further be submitted to the Programme Leader.
- Assignments to litigants
Pro Bono cases will be distributed evenly amongst the registered volunteer practitioners. The Programme Leader will assign no more than one pro bono litigant to each volunteer practitioner, although there may be instances where this number is exceeded.
5. SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNAL
The Small Claims Tribunal was established in 2007 by the Chief Justice in accordance with DIFC Law No. 10 of 2004 (the DIFC Court Law) as a Tribunal of the DIFC Courts with power to hear and determine claims within the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts (as it may be defined from time to time). 90% of cases are resolved within four weeks at the Small Claims Tribunal, a track record maintained since 2007.
Commencement of a Small Claim
In order to lodge a small claim, the claimant must submit a P53/01 form to the Registry. The form is available on the Courts’ website: www.difccourts.ae. The DIFC Courts’ Registry will serve the claim form on the defendant.
Parties must present themselves at the consultation and may not be represented by a lawyer. A party may be represented by a non-lawyer with a power of attorney when it appears necessary to the SCT Judge.
If the party is a company or corporation, any full-time officer or employee with the authority to make decisions on behalf of that company may represent it at the consultation. The representative must provide a letter of authorisation at the start of the consultation. All persons appearing at a consultation must provide an identification card or passport.
The Claimant may withdraw a claim by submitting a formal request to the SCT during the consultation process.
Although 90% of all SCT Claims are resolved during the consultation stage, if the claim is not settled at this stage, the SCT Judge will give both parties directions for the preparation of the claim for a hearing. The hearing will be informal and private, unless ordered otherwise by the SCT Judge. The SCT Judge may adopt any method of proceeding at a hearing that he considers to be fair.
Court of First Instance
Where appropriate, the SCT Judge may order that a small claim be transferred to the Court of First Instance (CFI). Further information can be found in RDC Part 53.37 available at www.difccourts.ae, for specific instances when a small claim may be re-allocated.
An intending appellant must file an appellant’s notice on Form P53/02 within 14 days after the date of the decision which the appellant wishes to appeal. The form is available at www.difccourts.ae. RDS 53.75 to 53.81 should be referred to for small claims appeals.
The DIFC Courts along with the Dubai Courts, under the Protocol on Enforcement signed in 2009, are dedicated to providing an efficient enforcement mechanism. Under the Protocol, Dubai Courts enforce DIFC Courts’ judgments and orders outside the DIFC, while the DIFC Courts enforce Dubai Courts’ judgments and orders within DIFC. This procedure was recently codified in Law 16/2011, Article 7.
If a person or company does not honour a judgment of either Court it becomes necessary for the Courts to enforce the judgment, whether by seizing property and money or, ultimately, by imprisonment. Enforcement judges from both courts apply the rules of the respective Courts but the enforcement judges have no jurisdiction to review the merits of a judgment, award or order of the other court.
The DIFC Courts have the power, in matters over which it has jurisdiction, to make any orders, including interlocutory orders and to issue or direct the issue of any writs it considers appropriate. Orders may be made in relation to restitution, disgorgement, compensation, or damages. The DIFC Courts may also waive any procedural requirements if the DIFC Courts are satisfied that an applicant is unable to meet the procedural requirement. Part 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 of the DIFC Court Rules govern over the enforcement procedure. To know more about enforcement process, please visit our website www.difccourts.ae.
7. THE ACADEMY
The DIFC Courts launched the Academy in September 2012, with the main aim of training lawyers in the UAE who are seeking to gain a better understanding of DIFC Courts’ laws and procedures. It is anticipated that a growing number of these will be young Emirati lawyers. The Academy forms part of the ‘Initiatives for Legal Excellence’ of HH Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, President of the DIFC and Chairman of the Dubai Judicial Authority. The Academy’s first course, consisting of ten modules, began on 11 November 2012, and was completed on 10 February, 2013.
Participants have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of leading common law practitioners who regularly pursue applications and appear before the DIFC Courts. It has been designed to meet the needs of today’s Emirati and expatriate lawyers, legal advisors and consultants, as well as partners seeking to gain a better understanding of & develop their familiarity with the procedures involved in implementing the DIFC Courts’ laws and procedures in their day to day cases. A certificate is awarded following completion of the course. To know more about the upcoming courses and how to apply please visit our website www.difccourts.ae.
8. DIFC COURTS’ LECTURE SERIES
The DIFC Courts engage with the wider legal community through their quarterly Courts’ Lecture Series, which began in 2009. At these seminars, international thought leaders and distinguished jurists provide insight into timely legal and judicial matters. The seminars have recently explored requested themes such as case management, enforcement, professional conduct, and court costs.
Transparency is central to the DIFC Courts’ ethos. Information on the workings of each element of the DIFC Courts mentioned in this guide can be found on our website with the required forms.
9. ADVOCACY TRAINING COURSE
The Academy of Law’s educational and training programmes are designed for any individual working in the legal sector who wishes to develop their career.
A comprehensive suite of courses means appropriate training is available to UAE legal professionals from all backgrounds and levels, from experienced English language Common Law practitioners through to newly qualified lawyers and those currently operating in Arabic speaking civil system.
Enrolment is not restricted to the UAE, and students living and working in the wider Middle East are welcome. For more information and enrolment visit: http://draacademy.ae/
10. STUDENT/DELEGATION VISITS.
Numerous delegations of government leaders, representatives of other court systems and students visited the DIFC Courts in the first half of 2015 to learn more about the judicial system, including:
- Lord Mayor of London (January 2015)
- Manipal University Dubai (February 2015)
- Middlesex University Dubai (February 2015)
- Voltera Fietta delegation (February 2015)
- Saudi legal delegation (February 2015)
- College University of Charleston, South Carolina, USA (March 2015)
- Darley Flying Start trainees (March 2015)
- British Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA) (March 2015)
- MIO Mohd Issa Odeh law firm (March 2015)
- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (March 2015)
- Kazakhstan legal delegation (March 2015)
- Dubai Courts (April 2015)
- Middlesex University London (April 2015)
- Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (April 2015)
- Manitoba University, Canada (April 2015)
- Kazakhstan Central Bank and Supreme Court (May 2015)
- Honeywell (May 2015)
- Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan (May 2015)
- Honourable Mr. Justice T.S. Thakur, Judge of Supreme Court of India (May 2015)
- CBL International (June 2015)
11. MOOT COURT COMPETETION
For the sixth time in a row, an American University of Sharjah (AUS) team was selected to internationally represent the university and the UAE after the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (Jessup) national rounds held recently at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts.
The Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition is an advocacy competition for law students. Teams of law students compete against one another through the presentation of oral and written pleadings to address timely issues of public international law in the context of a hypothetical legal dispute between nations.
12. COURT ROOM FOR NON-DIFC COURT HEARINGS
DIFC courtrooms could be used for non-DIFC court hearings for civil and commercial disputes. In addition, meeting rooms located in the DIFC courts can be booked by the public for external purposes.
For more information and bookings contact registry at: Registry.email@example.com
13. ACCESS TO LIBRARY
Lawyers and students can now access rules and law books at the DIFC court’s library at no cost. For more information email: Nilofer.Dsouza@difccourts.ae
14. SALE OF DIFC COURTS RELATED PUBLICATIONS
The DIFC Courts Law Reports are a compilation of key DIFC Courts judgments for the easy reference of practitioners and students. If you are interested in purchasing any of the DIFC Courts publications please see: http://draacademy.ae/publications/list-of-publications/ or contact: Saba Piracha by email at Saba.Piracha@difccourts.ae or telephone at 04 4273368.