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    « Sentencing terror | Main | You've got to be Kedding »
    Wednesday
    Jun132012

    A mere trifle

    Queensland QCs arm twisting republican SCs ... Too many barristerial layers ... Sacking of 'staves spreads to the Dizzo ... Judges need to sharpen their writing if they criticise wordy affidavits ... Memories of Michael Lawler on the 12th floor Wentworth-Selborne ... Law Society president's divorce driven charity drive 

    Trifle: sponge on the bottom, cream on the top

    THE Queensland Bar 'n' Grill is grappling with the prospect of a multi-tiered system of barristers. 

    Monarchist AG, Jarrod-Bjelke, 30, has got the grill all excited about the reintroduction of Queens Counsel. 

    See: Putting the Queen back into Queensland.  

    I'm told that some of the Queens Counsel rump are to commence arm-twisting republican Senior Counsel to discourage them from converting to QCs. 

    There will be nothing worse than having the QC market flooded with new entrants. Appealing to SCs anti-monarchical sentiments may go some way to stopping too many of them rebadging as QCs. 

    Of course, this rather flies in the face of one of the justifications advanced by senior barman, Roger N. Traves SC, that it would be desirable to have "one rather than two categories of senior counsel". 

    Now there's an exciting prospect of having a multi-layered trifle: run-of-the-mill barristers (sponge cake); senior counsel who won't be QCs (jelly); senior counsel who convert to QCs (custard); original QCs (rum-infused cream). 

    *   *   *

    THE sacking of 15 full-time NSW Supreme Court "floating" tipstaves and associates has spread to the Dizzo. 

    Another seven floaters have been turned into the cold by District Court administrators. 

    These are 'staves and associates who lost their judges to retirement, or death. They floated on a needs basis between acting judges or judges whose staff were on hols. 

    Economic reasons were cited, but maybe their jobs could have been saved if less had been squandered on the lemon that is JusticeLink. 

    The "savings" are being driven by the bloodless bureaucrats at the Department of Attorney General and Justice. 

    The old codgers who were tippies have been replaced by bright young graduate muffins who are on one year contracts. In NSW, associates stick to secretarial tasks. 

    The older tippies were more like "personal assistants", some even mowing judicial lawns at weekends, polishing footwear and silver. 

    It's been a very upsetting time. Supreme Court CEO Linda Murphy did one-on-ones with the retrenchees and told them they were all valued and it was sad to see them go. 

    There was a lot of anger about. 

    *   *   *

    HOW much longer can barristers and litigation solicitors put up with this campaign of meanness from the bench on issues of costs and discovery? 

    The latest outburst came from Robert Shallcross Hulme J in the NSW Supremes, who launched a massive critique on a wordy affidavit filed in a personal injury case.   

    The judge complained about the 83-page document filed by Doyle Miles, an employed solicitor at the law shop Hicksons, acting for the defendant in a personal injury case. 

    Hulme thought that 90 percent of it was a waste of paper and the time taken to prepare it was also a waste. 

    Further: 

    "It is reasonable to infer that there was a further waste of time imposed on those who subsequently had to read it." 

    Unfortunately, the judge's complaints about length and verbosity were a bit spoiled by his own great clunking sentences. Take this 61 word whopper: 

    "However, an 83-page affidavit is made up of 83 pages. Any consideration of whether it, of [sic] a significant part of such an affidavit is pointless or should be the inspiration for a special costs order requires attention to its individual pages and although in the ordinary course one just ignores unnecessary verbiage or paper, having embarked on the task I have, it has been appropriate to deal with the document comprehensively." 

    That could have been said crisply in 30 words or less. 

    However, HH did put his finger on a contemporary dilemma. 

    Stewart Cameron, the partner in charge of the case at Hicksons, said that where a piece of correspondence is part of a larger exchange on a relevant topic, he would normally include the total exchange so that the whole was available for reference.

    In his view "this practice was cost efficient". 

    Not so, said Shallcross. 

    "The mere possibility that more may be needed provides no basis for Mr Cameron's approach." 

    He added that one of the important tasks of litigation lawyers is to sort the relevant from the irrelevant. However, this is not being done, with the consequence that the courts are being drowned in printed waffle. 

    "Whether the change in practice is inspired by a greater fear of being sued, or the fact that charging for time or copies often rewards an increase in the size of the task or in the volume of paper, or simply avoids having to make decisions, there can be no doubt that the courts are being deluged with material that years ago would not have passed solicitors' desks or counsel's chambers and should not now." 

    He disallowed 80 percent off the costs of counsel in considering or settling Myles' affidavit and ordered Cameron to pay his client some of counsel's costs. 

    If this war on plodding affidavits is to continue, maybe judges need to sharpen their skills with a stint at writing school. 

    *   *   *

    Michael Lawyer & Kathy Jackson: 12th floor memories

    AMONG the delusional outpouring from the Member for Dobell, Craig (Credit Card) Thomson, was his suggestion that there was a conspiracy between Liberal leader Tony Abbott and the deputy president of Fair Work Australia, Michael Lawler - beau of former HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson. 

    Thomson also floated the notion that Lawler interfered in the publication of the FWA report into the Health Services Union so as discredit the MP and help bring on a by-election, which would putt Abbott in The Lodge. 

    Both ideas are hogwash. 

    Abbott may have appointed Lawler to the Industrial Relations Commission, which under Julia Gillard has transmogrified into Fair Work Australia, but there is certainly no sweetheart linkage between Abbo and his appointee. 

    Prior to his judicial elevation Lawler hailed from 12 Wentworth-Selborne where he was well known as a bleeding heart leftie.  

    He would do work for nothing and, what with five kiddies to feed, was frequently impecunious. 

    The IR Commission gig saved his bacon. His brother John also has a big Commonwealth job as CEO of the Australian Crime Commission

    I hope Michael is not advising Kathy in her rash move to contact Justice Geoffrey Flick's chambers directly or to sack her lawyers so she ends up with poor old David Rofe at the eleventh hour, embarrassed that his robes were at the dry cleaners. 

    Anyone who remembers Lawler from his "come the revolution" days on the 12th floor, thinks it amusing that he's now painted as an ally of the Abominable Abbott. 

    *   *   *

    NSW Law Society prez Justin Dowd has announced an intriguing initiative to raise money for charity. 

    His divorce firm, Watts McCray, will donate $5 to worthy causes for each new matter it commences. 

    The prez says his law shop is hoping to raise $20,000. 

    If Watts McCray assists 4,000 people to get divorced then he would have reached his charitable objective. 

    There is another way of raising the money, which could avoid any unfortunate hint of fund raising through peoples' personal misery. 

    Why doesn't the president forego his Law Society funded city apartment, leased for around $50,000 a year. After all, he has been living and working in Sydney, so it's not as though he actually needs a CBD pad.  

    On occasions, when the LawSoc council wrestles with ethical questions late into the night, it would be cheaper to get an hotel room for Dowdy. 

    These days the president of the Law Society gets an "honorarium" of about $350,000 a year - same as a District Court judge. Then there's the city pad on top of that. 

    Another thought would be for the president to donate 10 percent of his LawSoc emolument to this charitable enterprise. 

    Either way the target could be reached without the disturbing linkage with divorce files. 

    Just a thought. 

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