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Established in 2007, the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) can hear claims within the jurisdiction of the DIFC in three situations. First, where the amount or value of the claim does not exceed AED 500,000. Second, when the claim relates to the employment or former employment of a party and the amount or value of the claim exceeds AED 500,000 and all parties to the claim elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT.
There is no value limit for the SCT’s elective jurisdiction in the context of employment claims. Third, if in the context of claims which are not employment related, the amount or value of the claim does not exceed AED 1 million, and all parties elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT, such election can be made in the underlying contract (if any) or subsequently.
In September 2022, H.E. Justice Nassir Al Nasser was appointed Judge in Charge of the Small Claims Tribunal Division.
Nassir was appointed as a DIFC Courts’ Judicial Officer in November 2012 and in 2017 was appointed as the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) Judge and Registrar, overseeing all Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) proceedings and case management conference and application hearings. In January 2021, Nassir Al Nasser was appointed to the Court of First Instance (CFI) at the DIFC Courts.
Nassir is a graduate of the University of Middlesex (UK) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from University of Dubai. Nassir is also the first Emirati to join the DIFC Courts whose primary legal training has been in English common law.
Prior to joining the DIFC Courts, Nassir undertook a training programme with Dubai Public Prosecutor’s Office and Dubai Courts as an intern.
The Court of First Instance (CFI) has exclusive jurisdiction over any civil or commercial case when it relates to the DIFC, in the following context:
The Court of First Instance can hear cases when the contract in question specifies DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction (pre-dispute jurisdiction) or when both parties elect to use DIFC Courts to resolve a dispute which has already arisen (post-dispute jurisdiction). One Judge hears proceedings in the CFI.
The Civil and Commercial Division acts as a vehicle for the resolution of complex disputes arising out of civil and commercial matters. The types of disputes that can be resolved through this Division are those relating to, but not limited to, employment, breach of contract, property and tenancy, banking & finance, which require specific expertise across the broad and complex expanse of disputes of this nature. A specialist judge heads this Division and works on encouraging parties to agree on timelines for the progression of cases, as well as ensuring matters requiring a decision from the Court are dealt with expeditiously and fairly, in line with the DIFC Courts’ commitment to transparent and efficient access to justice.
In September 2022, Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke was appointed Judge in Charge of the Civil & Commercial Division.
England & Wales
England & Wales
Sir Jeremy Cooke is a graduate of St Edmund Hall, Oxford from 1967-1970 and has an MA 1st Class Honours degree in Jurisprudence.
Sir Jeremy Cooke was an Articled Clerk with Speechly Mumford and Soames 1971-1973, admitted as a solicitor 1973. He was Called to the Bar 1976 (Lincoln’s Inn), Droop Scholar and practised at the Commercial Bar, specialising in Commercial Court and Arbitration work. He served as a High Court Judge, Queen’s Bench Division, 2001 and then was appointed to the Commercial Court in 2003. Justice Jeremy Cooke was appointed as a Judge of the DIFC Courts on 13 April 2016.
The Technology & Construction Division (TCD) draws on specialist judges and a new set of industry-specific rules to fast-track dispute resolution, providing greater certainty to businesses in court. The Division will only hear technically complex cases.
Examples in the construction sector might include complicated engineering disputes or claims arising out of fires. Technology-related cases could include liability for cybercrime incidents, disputes over the ownership and use of data, and issues relating to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence or connected cars.
In September 2022, Justice Wayne Martin was appointed Judge in Charge of the Technology & Construction Division.
The Honourable Wayne Stewart Martin served as the Chief Justice of Western Australia and as a Judge of the Court of Appeal and General Division of the Supreme Court of Western Australia between 2006 - 2018. The Hon. Wayne Martin completed a Master of Laws from the University of London in 1975 and was admitted to practice in Western Australia in 1977. After being a solicitor and counsel with Keall Brinsden & Co, Perth, from 1980 - 1988, he joined the Independent Bar in 1988 and was appointed as Queens Counsel 1993. From 2001 - 2003, he was Senior Counsel assisting the HIH Royal Commission in Sydney. He served as President of the Western Australian Bar Association from 1996 - 1999, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia from 1996 to 2001, President of the Law Society in 2006 and Director of the Law Council of Australia in 2006. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2012.
Established in 2020, the Arbitration Division is mandated to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of arbitration-related cases. Similar to the Technology & Construction Division (TCD) launched in 2017, the Arbitration Division leverages dedicated judicial and registry oversight and case management expertise. Streamlining the arbitration-related cases under the new division has also led to increased efficiency of process, with the ability to swiftly review applications for interim measures and injunctive relief mechanisms.
With its extensive national, regional, and global connectivity, the DIFC Courts empowers its specialised Arbitration Division to leverage existing enforcement expertise, helping to ensure certainty of recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.
To bolster the Arbitration Division, the DIFC Courts has also launched an Arbitration Working Group in 2020, the first court in the region to introduce such an initiative. The panel of experts are tasked with reinforcing and sharing developments and best-practices, encompassing an advisory team of arbitration professionals, bodies, centres, educational institutions, and industry-related organisations.
In February 2020, H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi was appointed Judge in Charge of the Arbitration Division.
H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi has over 23 years of experience in international commercial and financial litigation in common law, civil law and Sharia’ legal systems. He has experience in arbitral practice in civil and common law systems, as has served as sole arbitrator, Co-arbitrator and Chairman of many arbitral tribunals. He frequently speaks and writes on topics involving DIFC Courts and international arbitration.
He joined the DIFC Courts in 2010 as a Judicial Officer before becoming a Small Claims Tribunal Judge and then a Court of First Instance Judge before he was appointed as Court of Appeal Judge in 2017. He was appointed by the DIFC Courts Chief Justice as Judge in Charge of the Arbitration Division of the DIFC Courts in 2020.
Prior to joining the DIFC Courts, Justice Al Sawalehi was the founder of Shamlan Law firm, where he represented governments and private clients on complex commercial and financial disputes in the UAE and MENA region. Prior to that, he served as Director of Strategic Affairs at The Executive Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai where he was involved in number of strategic legal cases.
Justice Al Sawalehi was also a manager of the Enforcement Department of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) where he supervised the International Financial Services Institution Compliance with the international best practice and DFSA regulations. Prior to joining the DFSA, he served for five years as a Public Prosecutor with the Dubai Public Prosecution Department in both criminal and civil departments, where he was involved in investigations of high profile commercial and financial crimes, and represented the Government’s Departments on several high value litigation before Dubai Courts.
H.E. Justice Al Sawalehi holds a Master’s degree with Merits in International Commercial Law from Westminster University in the UK, a Higher Diploma with Honour in Advanced Legal and Judicial Studies from the Dubai Judicial Institution, and a Bachelor with distinction in Shari’a and Law from the UAE University.
H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi Court of Appeal Judge & Judge in Charge of Arbitration Division
Rashid Shahin Director
Alec Emmerson Chief Executive & Trustee
Taghrid Ashrafi Senior Legal Counsel
Leonora Riesenburg Chair
Dr Tenia Kyriazi SFHEA Deputy Director, Academic Operations
Hussain Hadi Head of LexisNexis Publishing Middle East
Edward Sunna Chief Legal Officer
Nassif BouMalhab Partner
Paul Coates Partner
Michelle Nelson Partner
Amir Ghaffari Partner
Alain Farhad Partner
Adrian Chadwick Partner
Henry Quinlan Partner
Stuart Paterson Partner
Sara Koleilat-Aranjo Senior Associate
Shane Jury Associate
Jasmin Fichte Managing Partner
Rupert Reed QC
Michael Black QC
Tom Montagu-Smith QC
In 2021, the DIFC Courts established the Digital Economy Court to oversee sophisticated national and transnational disputes related to current and emerging technologies across areas ranging from big data, blockchain, AI, fintech, and cloud services, to disputes also involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 3D printing, and robotics.
With the continuous growth of digital transformation across the world, trade and services inevitably integrate digital technology in their fundamental operations. Now, more than ever an innovative judicial system is key to promoting growth as well as providing security, reliability, and protection for companies and businesses.
England & Wales
England & Wales
In 2022, Justice Michael Black was appointed as a Judge at the DIFC Courts Court of Appeal and Judge in charge of the Digital Economy Court (DEC).
Prior to his appointment at the DIFC Courts, Justice Black has been involved with the DIFC Courts since it was established in 2004. As well as assisting the First Chief Justice, Sir Anthony Evans, in establishing the Courts’ structure and drafting the Rules, Justice Black was also the first Practitioner to be Registered under Part II and appeared in the first trial before the Court of First Instance and the first hearing before the Court of Appeal.
Justice Black served as a Deputy Judge of the Technology & Construction Court in London between 1999 and 2013 and a Deputy High Court Judge (Queen’s Bench Division) between 2008 and 2013.
Justice Black was called to the Bar of England & Wales in 1978 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1995.
In 2022, Maitha Al Shehhi was promoted to a Judicial Officer to support the Digital Economy Court (DEC) Division. Maitha joined the DIFC Courts as a Case Progression Officer in April 2019. She is an accredited mediator from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and currently sits in consultations as a Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) Judge. Maitha holds a Bachelor of Law from the University of Sharjah, and a Master’s Degree in Public International Law from Queen Mary University of London.
The Court of Appeal lays down the final order or judgment of the Courts and no appeal shall be permitted from a decision of the Court of Appeal.