Escaping the relational database paradigm:
Case management in the High Court of Australia


 Up  Contents Lotus Notes Next

The High Court is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. Its functions are to interpret and apply the law of Australia; to decide cases of special federal significance, including challenges to the constitutional validity of statutes; and to hear appeals from Federal, State and Territory courts.

The Principal Registry of the High Court is in Canberra, in the Court's own building within the Parliamentary Triangle. In addition, there are offices of the High Court Registry in the capital of each State and in the Northern Territory. High Court officers staff the Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Registry; staff of state and federal courts provide registry counter services in the other six capitals.

The High Court Registry provides traditional registry services to the Court. These include managing the case flow of the Court, providing information to Justices concerning matters filed, and providing information to the profession and the public about the case flow and practice of the Court. Registry staff also respond to counter, telephone and written enquiries concerning the status and disposition of cases.

An appreciation of the judicial workload of the Court can be gained from the table in Figure 1, extracted from information in the 1996-97 Annual Report.1 In the 1996/97 year, a total of 1,175 matters were filed in the Court.



Special leave applications (civil)


Special leave applications (criminal)


Appeals (civil)


Appeals (criminal)


Writs of summons


Applications for removal


Orders nisi and applications referred to Full Court


Electoral matters






Figure 1:  Categories of matters filed in the High Court of Australia in the 1996/97 year.

In early 1996 the Court decided to replace its case management system. The old system was developed in 1987 and operated on a Prime mid-range 5340 processor. It was written in the Prime Information (Pick) language, running under the Primos operating system. The system was script-based and provided Registry staff with basic information concerning the status of cases before the Court. By early 1996 the system had reached the end of its useful life, and the cost of supporting the proprietary Prime processor was excessive.

The Court required a new case management system which:

After preparing formal specifications and reviewing existing case management systems in a number of other courts, it was decided to construct the new system "in-house" rather than attempt to modify an existing system. At that time, it was decided that Lotus Notes might offer an appropriate environment in which to construct the new system. To confirm that a system developed using Notes could meet all of the Court's specifications, a prototype system was constructed. The prototype was completed in mid-1996, and the Court decided to proceed with the project utilizing Notes.

Price Waterhouse Urwick was selected to construct the system. Application development proceeded through 1997 and the final data migration from the old to the new system was completed on Christmas Day. The new system "went live" for the first time on the 2 January 1998.

 Up  Contents Lotus Notes Next

Copyright noticeValid HTML 4.0
Home page:  <>
E-mail:  <>
Last modified:  23 March 1998