DIFC Courts
  • Small Claims Tribunal
  • Court of First Instance
  • Civil & Commercial Division
  • Technology & Construction Division
  • Arbitration Division
  • Digital Economy Court Division
  • Court of Appeal

Small Claims Tribunal (SCT)

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.

judge image

H.E. JusticeNassir Al Nasser

UAE

Court of First Instance (CFI)

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:

  • Civil or commercial cases and disputes arising from or related to a contract that has been fulfilled, or a transaction that has been carried out, in whole, or in part, in the DIFC, or an incident that has occurred in the DIFC;
  • Objections filed against a decision made by the DIFC’s bodies, which are subject to objection in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations;
  • Any application over which the Courts has jurisdiction in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations.

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.

Civil & Commercial Division

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.

judge image

JusticeSir Jeremy Cooke

England & Wales

Technology & Construction Division (TCD)

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.

judge image

JusticeWayne Martin

Australia

Arbitration Division

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.

judge image

H.E. JusticeShamlan Al Sawalehi

UAE

Chair

member_icon.png
DIFC Courts

H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi Court of Appeal Judge & Judge in Charge of Arbitration Division

Deputy Chairperson

member_icon.png
DIFC Courts

Nour Hineidi Registrar

Members

member_icon.png
Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC)

Rashid Shahin Director

member_icon.png
DIFC Arbitration Institute (DAI)

Alec Emmerson Chief Executive & Trustee

member_icon.png
Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Taghrid Ashrafi Senior Legal Counsel

member_icon.png
Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIAC), UAE Branch

Leonora Riesenburg Chair

member_icon.png
Middlesex University Dubai

Dr Tenia Kyriazi SFHEA Deputy Director, Academic Operations

member_icon.png
Dubai Holding

Hussain Hadi Head of LexisNexis Publishing Middle East

member_icon.png
Dubai Holding

Edward Sunna Chief Legal Officer

member_icon.png
Clyde & Co

Nassif BouMalhab Partner

member_icon.png
Clifford Chance

Paul Coates Partner

member_icon.png
Reed Smith

Michelle Nelson Partner

member_icon.png
Vinson & Elkins

Amir Ghaffari Partner

member_icon.png
Mayer Brown International

Alain Farhad Partner

member_icon.png
Hadef & Partners

Adrian Chadwick Partner

member_icon.png
DLA Piper

Henry Quinlan Partner

member_icon.png
Herbert Smith Freehills

Stuart Paterson Partner

member_icon.png
Al Tamimi & Co.

Sara Koleilat-Aranjo Senior Associate

member_icon.png
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Shane Jury Associate

member_icon.png
Fichte & Co

Jasmin Fichte Managing Partner

member_icon.png
Serle Court

Rupert Reed QC

member_icon.png
XXIV Old Buildings

Michael Black QC

member_icon.png
XXIV Old Buildings

Tom Montagu-Smith QC

Digital Economy Court Division

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.

In September 2022, Justice Michael Black was appointed Judge in Charge of the Digital Economy Court Division.

judge image

JusticeMichael Black

England & Wales

judge image

Maitha AlShehhi

UAE

Court of Appeal (CA)

This Court shall be comprised of at least three (3) Judges, with the Chief Justice, or most senior Judge, presiding. The Court of Appeal has exclusive jurisdiction over:

  • Appeals filed against Judgments and Awards made by the Court of First Instance;
  • Interpretation of any article of the DIFC’s laws based upon the request of any of the DIFC’s bodies or the request of any of the DIFC’s establishments provided that the establishment obtains leave of the Chief Justice in this regard. Such interpretation shall have the power of law.

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.