Civil disputes between individuals or groups such as corporations and associations are heard in the Magistrates Court. The ACT Magistrates Court has jurisdiction to deal with claims or disputes for amounts up to $250,000, see section 257 of the Magistrates Court Act 1930. Claims lower than $250,000 can also be resolved in the ACT Supreme Court; generally, however, the Court tends to deal with matters over $250,000. Section 266A of the Magistrates Court Act 1930 prevents the Court from dealing with civil disputes involving less than $25,000. Disputes involving less than $25,000 fall within the jurisdiction of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
The Magistrates Court operates under the Magistrates Court Act 1930. The Act provides the Court with summary jurisdiction to hear both civil and criminal matters. This means that the authority of the Court to hear matters is limited to those areas specified in the Act. For instance, section 257 sets out the Court's civil jurisdiction. In the Magistrates Court the Court is always constituted by a single Magistrate who decides both the facts and the law.
Magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory are appointed by the executive government after having worked as legal practitioners for more than five years. Magistrates also hear matters in the Childrens Court, Coroner's Court and Industrial Court.
To assist in the running of the Court, the Court has power to to make rules governing its practice and procedure - these rules and procedures appear in the Court Procedures Rules 2006. The procedures set out requirements for litigants appearing before the Court, how claims are to be filed, who has the right to originate a claim, the manner in which proceedings are to be conducted, as well as other matters vital to the proper functioning of the Court. From time to time the Chief Magistrate will issue Practice Directions and Notice to Practitioners.