Series VPRS 267
Civil Case Files
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1841 - cont
  Series in Custody 1852 - 1989
  Contents 1852 - 1989
Public Access: Part Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
 
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1841 - 1852 Supreme Court of N.S.W. for the District of Port Phillip VA 914
1852 - cont Supreme Court of Victoria VA 2549
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1852 - cont Supreme Court of Victoria VA 2549
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    For cases heard from 1861 - 1919 (and for some cases heard between 1960 and 1966), browse or search the records details for the name/s of the plaintiff and / or defendant.
    For cases heard from 1841 - 1852, the case files are not in custody. Summary details of a case may be found in the indexes and registers comprising VPRS 5330, 5331, 5327 and 5328.
    For the remainder of the records, use the steps below:
    1. Consult VPRS 5327 Index to Action/Cause Books to obtain the case number for the trial of interest.

    2. Consult VPRS 2983 Microfilm Copy of Index to Action Books for the period 1842-1924. From 1924 onwards the original index will need to be referred to.

    3. Once the case number has been ascertained, scan the Record Description List for the unit containing the required file number.

    4. For a summary of the case, including the judgement, refer to VPRS 5328 Action Cause Books.

  • Function / Content
    This series began in 1841 when a Resident Judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court for the Port Phillip District (VA 914) was appointed to hear civil cases in Melbourne. Prior to 1841 civil cases of any importance were heard in Sydney. In 1852, following separation from New South Wales, the Legislative Council passed an Act (15 Vic., No.10) to establish the Supreme Court of Victoria.

    This series consists of civil proceedings that generally relate to failure to pay debts or non-performance of contract. Other cases refer to Jury and Personal Injury actions involving large claims (greater than $200,000 in 1999). Civil actions are not limited by the amount of money at stake, although all actions over a certain amount ($200,000 in 1999) must be heard in the Supreme Court. Some case files relate also to appeals from lower courts and, up to 1976, post divorce financial settlements (see VPRS 283 Divorce Case Files).

    A civil action was initiated when a plaintiff filed a summons at the Prothonotarys Office. The summons sets out a complaint against another party, ie the defendant, and establishes the nature of the plaintiffs complaint with a provision that, if the complaint were met by a specific date, the action would cease. Upon receiving a summons the defendant then has three alternatives. He or she can either:

    Meet the complaint on the summons and thus end proceedings (lapsed action);

    Do nothing, in which case a default judgement (and costs) would be awarded by the Court in the plaintiffs favour (default judgement); or

    Contest the action through the lodging of a document known as an appearance (contested judgement). Only if this latter option is followed will an action become a civil trial. However the original writ, including the plaintiffs claim, can be viewed on the case file irrespective of the cases outcome.

    Examples of documents on a case file may include:
    - Writ (including the plaintiffs claim);
    - Particulars of demand;
    - Summons;
    - Affidavit in support of the Summons;
    - Statement of Defence;
    - Notice to Produce;
    - Interrogatories;
    - Answers of the defendant to the plaintiffs interrogatories;
    - Notice of Trial;
    - Certificate of readiness for trial;
    - Order;
    - Opinion/s;
    - Subpoena/s;
    - Summons for Final Judgement;
    - Bill of Costs;
    - Writ of Execution;
    - Final Judgement; and
    - Appeal.

    The Full Court of the Supreme Court (consisting of usually three, but sometimes five judges) hears and determines appeals from single judges of the Supreme and County Court. There is usually no general right of appeal from a decision of a Magistrates Court; however, a dissatisfied party may apply to have a Supreme Court judge review a case in law. The main activities of the Court are based in Melbourne, and judges go on circuit to regional centres including Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Hamilton, Mildura, Sale, Shepparton, Wangaratta and Warrnambool.

    From the passing of the original Act in 1852, many subsequent Acts have amended the Supreme Courts jurisdiction in civil matters. The two most recent of these Acts being the Supreme Court Act 1986 and the Constitution (Supreme Court) Act 1989.

  • Recordkeeping System
    The case files are arranged in a straight annual number sequence, eg 1852/01 1852/769, commencing with trial 1 at the beginning of each year. The cover of each case file provides a list of all the documents therein. Each document is numbered in the top right-hand corner, and arranged on the file in that order. The sequence of the documents on each file represents the order in which they were lodged at the Prothonotarys Office. Case files for the period 1841-1852 are not in PROV custody. However, case summaries can be found in VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books and VPRS 5331 Judgement Book.

    VPRS 5327 Index to Action/Cause Books was created as the original index to both VPRS 5328 Action Cause Books and this series. The indexes are arranged in alphabetical order by the plaintiffs surname.

    Case numbers were assigned from VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books. The action or case file number, together with the names of the plaintiff and defendant, provides access into all of the related series mentioned below. The Action/Cause books were created to record the history of each action by noting details about the action and the documentation lodged. Because there were three types of potential outcome from each case (ie-lapsed action, default judgement and contested judgement), researchers may initially confirm a cases outcome in VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books.

    The information in the Action/Cause books is spread over four pages. The first two pages identify the parties involved and detail the nature of the action. The next two pages document details of default and contested judgements. This information was also recorded in VPRS 5331 Judgement Book, which is indexed by VPRS 5330 Index to Judgements Book. For the period 1841-1854, VPRS 5331 Judgement Book alone details the information recorded in the second section of VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books. Blank entries here indicate that the defendant met the complaint on the summons.

    Where the Court issued writs of ca.sa (capias ad satisfaciendum) or fi.fa (fieri facias), these were recorded in VPRS 5332 Execution Books. A fi.fa directs the sheriff at the Supreme Court to seize assets belonging to the defendant with a view to selling them so as to pay the judgement amount. A ca.sa does the same but also has the defendant arrested. Both writs are normally sought against defendants who have been declared insolvent. VPRS 5332 Execution Books is arranged alphabetically by the name of the defendant.

    VPRS 5388 Debt Attachment Books was created to record when a creditor, having won a judgement against a debtor and not yet compensated, prevents a third party (or garnishee) from paying sums owing to the debtor and instead ensures that the money is paid to himself/herself. Details give the name of the case number (as given in VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books) and entries are arranged in chronological order by the date of attachment.

    VPRS 5329 Index to Action/Cause Judgements Book was created as a reference to VPRS 5331 Judgement Book. The index contains the same information as VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books, but is arranged alphabetically by the plaintiffs surname and, in earlier volumes, records the term in which the judgement was given. Terms are divided into Hilary Term, Easter Term, Trinity Term and Michaelmas Term.

    Where cases went to trial, they were recorded in either VPRS 5513 Cause Lists Without a Jury or VPRS 5514 Cause Lists With Jury. Volumes are arranged in chronological order by the date the case was heard in court. Both series list summary information of the trial including the number of the action or case number (as given in VPRS 5328 Action/Cause Books); plaintiff, defendant and their respective attorneys; day cause tried; and verdict, eg settled by assent, order Nisi discharged with costs, judgement given plaintiffs costs, etc.

    VPRS 5367 Court Book was created to provide a summary of Motions or Orders heard by the Court. Given are details of plaintiffs and defendants and their associated counsel, the number of the initial action (case number), verdict and when the order was issued. Most of the orders refer to Orders to Review, Motions before the Court, Injunctions, Claims of Compensation and applications for leave to appeal to the Privy Council in London.

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Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
1841 - 1972 Civil Action/Cause Books VPRS 5328
1852 - 1858 Indexes To Judgements VPRS 5330
1852 - cont Index to Action/Cause Books (See VPRS 2983, Microfilm Copy of Index to Action/Cause Books, 1842-1924) VPRS 5327
Controlled SeriesControlled Series
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
Previous SeriesPrevious Series
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Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
Subsequent SeriesSubsequent Series
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Transfer Date Series Title Series Number
0 - 1990 Commercial and Common Civil Law Case Records VPRS 18582
List/s of records in this seriesList/s of records in this series
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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0001 1852 - 1872 Open 276
P0002 1920 - 1989 Open 7768
P0003 1894 - 1894 Closed 1
P0004 1957 - 1988 Open 9
P0005 1960 - 1966 Open 772
P0006 1960 - 1966 Closed 125
P0007 1862 - 1919 Part Open 1553
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
Display entries per page
Date Range Series Title Series Number
1841 - 1972 Civil Action/Cause Books VPRS 5328
1852 - 1858 Indexes To Judgements VPRS 5330
1852 - cont Index to Action/Cause Books (See VPRS 2983, Microfilm Copy of Index to Action/Cause Books, 1842-1924) VPRS 5327
More research resourcesMore research resources