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The specially managed civil list framework

The specially managed civil list (SMCL) framework will apply to more complex and/or high value cases that would benefit from a dedicated and rigorous pre-trial management process to facilitate their expeditious resolution.

The SMCL framework will apply to the following categories of cases which have claims exceeding $150,000:

  • Banking.
  • Corporate finance.
  • Company law.
  • Intellectual property.
  • Securities.
  • Equity and trusts.
  • Construction disputes.
  • Representative proceedings under Order 4 Rule 6 of the Rules of Court 2021.
  • Defamation actions commenced in the district courts.
  • Any case deemed suitable for the SMCL at the discretion of the court or on the application of parties.

    How will cases on the SMCL framework proceed

    A team of judicial officers who will deal with pre-trial applications will track the cases on the SMCL framework and give directions to facilitate the timely disposal of the dispute. 

    Refer to the following for an overview of the SMCL framework:


    The first SMCL Case Conference

    The first SMCL case conference (CC) will be scheduled around 7 weeks from the date that the defence was filed.

    An SMCL notice will be issued to inform the claimant and any other party who has filed a notice of intention to contest the claim that the case has been identified for the SMCL. The notice will state the following:

    • Date of the first SMCL CC.
    • Details that the parties are to provide to the court within a prescribed time:
      • Update on the progress of the matter, including attempts at amicable resolution.
      • List of directions sought, including the timeframe for each direction.

    The SMCL Notice may also include further directions from the court. together with the relevant checklists and forms.

    If both parties are represented by lawyers, an SMCL CC will be conducted on a “documents-only” basis. If there is at least one party who is unrepresented, a physical SMCL CC will be held.

    Subsequent SMCL CCs

    Further SMCL CCs may be convened if required by the court or on the parties’ application.

    Single Application Pending Trial and other applications

    The court may, at any SMCL CC, direct the parties to file and serve the Single Application Pending Trial (SAPT) pursuant to Order 9 Rule 9 of the Rules of Court 2021 and/or give any directions in respect of other stand-alone applications at the SMCL CC.

    A party who intends to file any application, besides those directed at a CC, must seek the court’s approval. This can be done by filing:

    • "Request to seek Permission for Application”. This must be copied to all other parties. 


    • "Request for Case Conference”, if the parties wish to make the submissions in a physical or remote CC. The request should state why the request for the court’s approval to file further applications cannot or should not be dealt with outside a CC.

    Directions to be given at SMCL CCs

    Parties should agree on the directions that they are seeking from the court before they attend an SMCL CC. If they cannot agree, they must inform the court of the items they disagree with and submit their respective positions on each item at the SMCL CC.

    A party who fails to comply with the directions given and is seeking an extension of time to comply must inform the court:

    • Why the directions have not been complied with.
    • Why they are seeking an extension of time.
    • Whether the other party agrees to the extension of time.

    If any party fails to provide the update on the progress of the matter, the list of directions sought, or fails to comply with the court’s directions, the court may proceed to give the necessary directions to the parties, to facilitate the progress of the case.

    Alternative dispute resolution

    Where appropriate, the court may, at any SMCL CC, refer the case to court alternative dispute resolution (Court ADR) or allow time for the parties to engage in any other appropriate ADR process. There are 3 forms of Court ADR: 

    MediationMediation is not to determine who is at fault in the dispute. Rather, the mediator will assist the parties in negotiating and agreeing on a possible settlement to their dispute. 
    ConciliationConciliation is similar to mediation. It is not to determine who is at fault in the dispute. Instead, the conciliator at the conciliation hearing will assist the parties in negotiating and agreeing on a possible settlement to their dispute. Compared to mediators, conciliators play a more active role in suggesting optimal solutions for the parties
    Neutral evaluationNeutral evaluation applies only to civil cases where parties have requested a neutral evaluation. It involves the parties and their solicitors making presentations of their claims and defences, including the available evidence, followed by the judge of the Court Dispute Resolution Cluster giving an assessment of the merits of the case. This process is also useful for helping the parties to arrive at areas of agreement and to discuss methods of case management to save costs and time. 

    Refer to Alternatives to trial for more information about ADR.

    In deciding the mode of Court ADR, the court will consider, amongst other things, the factual matrix and the parties’ preference.

    The primary aim of Court ADR is to facilitate open and frank discussions between parties to help them achieve an amicable resolution of their dispute. As such, all communications made in a Court ADR hearing will be marked by the judge as being confidential or without prejudice, except the terms of the settlement agreement (unless all the parties to the settlement agree to keep it confidential), consent judgments and consent orders of court.

    Setting down for trial

    If the action is not disposed of by the court or settled or resolved, the court will, at an appropriate stage, set down the matter for trial. 

    If the matter is set down by the date fixed by the court, a pre-trial case conference will be arranged and any outstanding SMCL CC will be set aside. 

    When the matter has been set down, the parties should seek extended timelines and/or permission to file any further applications at the SMCL CC or from the trial judge if one has been allocated.

      Need help?

      The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

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      Step-by-step guide


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