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The perils of self-representation: how not to run an appeal

17 Mar 2023

| Author: Fiona Wu

Senior Courts Act 2016 – unsuccessful leave application – application for leave to appeal to Supreme Court against Court of Appeal judgment refusing leave to appeal interlocutory matters to Court of Appeal – self-represented litigant – leave criteria not met – related to particular circumstances – no matters of public or general importance – not necessary to determine appeal before substantive appeal – application dismissed.

Wu v Stalix Property Ltd [2023] NZSC 2 (Glazebrook, O’Regan and Ellen France JJ) 

The respondents, Stalix Property Limited and Stress Free Chairs, Dining and Lounge Limited, are the registered proprietors of a property in Christchurch.  Yihenga Wu, the self-represented applicant, was formerly one of the registered proprietors and refused to vacate the property.

In 2022, the High Court made an order granting the respondents possession of the property (Stalix Property Ltd v Wu [2022] NZHC 1928).  Wu appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal.

In addition to the appeal against the substantive decision, Wu filed two interlocutory applications asking for answers to a number of questions.  The first application was not accepted for filing as it concerned proceedings not at issue in the appeal, and the second application was refused by Brown J, who noted that the Court of Appeal “does not answer questions in the nature of interrogatories” prior to hearing an appeal and, in any event, Wu’s questions were unrelated to the present appeal but sought to rely on an argument previously advanced and rejected in the High Court.

Applicable principles – consideration of criteria for leave to appeal to Supreme Court – s 74 of the Senior Courts Act 2016 – adopted threshold required for miscarriage of justice in civil cases per `Junior Farms Ltd v Hampton Securities Ltd (in liq) [2006] NZSC 60 – whether necessary to hear appeal on interlocutory matters before substantive appeal – costs.

Held:  Application for leave to appeal is discussed. The criteria for leave are not met as the application “relates to particular circumstances of this case and no matter of public or general importance or commercial significance arises. Nor is there any risk of a miscarriage of justice.”  Furthermore, it is not necessary to hear and determine this proposed appeal before the Court of Appeal determines the substantive appeal.

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