Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Practice Trends: Fast-Tracking of Omani Court Proceedings

In a country as well managed as Oman, it should come as no surprise to see court cases resolved quickly. But even we have been surprised at how swiftly some Omani court proceedings are being resolved these days as a result of strengthened efforts by the court system to fast-track proceedings.

For example, in a recent Primary Court labour case, the Judge allowed two submissions only: a statement of claim by the Claimant, which was filed at the first hearing; and our written response on behalf of the Defendant employer, filed at the second hearing, which took place just 14 days after the first hearing. The Court then pronounced its judgment at the third hearing, which took place 20 days after the second hearing. From start to finish, the entire Primary Court proceeding took only 34 days. Traditionally, labour cases may have taken up to 12 months in the Primary Court before receiving a judgment.

Happily, our client won and the Claimant's case was rejected.

Our recent experience indicates that this case was not an exception, but rather part of a growing trend of Omani courts taking a fast-track approach to many proceedings. This trend has important implications: lawyers must be increasingly swift and responsive in their handling of disputes, and their business clients must also be prepared to take part in a fast-moving process. Legal strategies will need to become more forward-thinking and preemptive. For example, as many readers know, all exhibits to an Omani court filing must be presented to the Omani Court in Arabic (and must also bear the stamp of a certified translator). In defending the case cited above, one key to our success was having translated many key emails into Arabic before the proceedings began – so that they were immediately available when we needed them for exhibits.

It will be interesting to monitor the fast-tracking in the Omani court system as this trend continues. Of particular note will be the extent to which this expedited approach extends upward through the ranks of the court system. While fast-tracking is clearly on the rise in the Primary Courts, we shall have to watch closely to see whether the same will occur in the Appeals Court, and finally in the Supreme Court.