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    "It is my vision for this country as your prime minister to keep the promise of Australia to all Australians. 

    I believe that Australia is a promise to everyone who has the great privilege to call themselves Australian. It's the promise that allows Australians quietly going about their lives to realise their simple, honest aspirations." 

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    « Don Weatherburn | Main | Speedy justice at work »
    Wednesday
    Mar192014

    Dispatches from the front line

    Cossack charges off the field of battle ... Soapy in all his finery ... Juries and the finer points of the LBW rule ... Roughshagger picks-up the pace ... Lawyers saved by OLSC systems failure ... A short history of fun-filled superimpositions  

    Sofronoff: off

    After nearly ten years in the job Walter Sofronoff has resigned as Qld's solicitor general. 

    And it's not to make himself available to replace Daphnis de Jersey as chief justice. 

    Word on the Rialto is that the fast car loving Cossack was not a happy camper with Can-Do and Jiving Jarrod. 

    He did not appear to defend the sex offender detention laws that the Court of Appeal declared invalid late last year. 

    The government selectively leaked a few snippets from his advice on the anti-bikie VLAD law, trying to paint him as the architect of this jewel in its legislative crown. 

    Cossack - off the battle field (pic Courier-Mail)

    In fact, I suspect he probably resigned because his advice was not sought or was ignored. 

    The government persists with putting out a contrary impression, with Can-Do today (Wed. March 19) saying: 

    "The solicitor-general's resignation is a matter for him - you can go and ask him. 

    I simply thank him today for the great support he's provided to the government.

    He's been absolutely terrific.

    He's provided advice personally to me, the [attorney general] and to the cabinet and he's helped us with a number of the laws that the government has passed in recent times."

    Maybe Walt didn't feel like defending the wretched Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act in the High Court. 

    Who can blame him? 

    *   *   *

    Cowdroy (left) at the graveside

    There was a line-up of the bold and the brave last week to wave goodbye to Hon Dennis Cowdroy from the Federal Court. 

    Prof Larissa Behrendt did the welcome to country, GG-in-Waiting Peter Cosgrove was there, senior citizen Tom Hughes came down from his sheep spread, judge advocate general Dick Tracey, Helen Murrell CJ from the ACT Supremes and reps from the NSW bar and the Law Society - Sandy Street and Gary Ulman - were all in attendance.  

    Everything was in place for a beautiful goodbye to Dennis when there was an audible sucking-in of collective breath. 

    Soapy Brandis "QC" sashayed in wearing a full-bottomed wig. 

    How completely naff. Wigs were banned by the Federal Court in 1995. 

    As soon as the AG was sure everyone had seen him he removed the horsehair from his pate and stuffed it in his bag. 

    There was much rolling of eyes around the court. 

    *   *   *

    No flab for the AG

    Talking of Soapy, I hear that he is keen to shed as much pudge as possible and has engaged a personal trainer in Sydney. 

    It is one of the reasons he enjoys spending time in Sin City. If you see a chrome-domed man kick-boxing in the Botanic Gardens it's the first law officer getting into shape. 

    *   *   *

     

    Reasonable doubt

    It's a sad day when a judge cannot assume that jurors understand the leg-before-wicket rule. 

    Here was Ipswich Dizzo Judge Greg Koppernol helping the jury get to grips with "reasonable doubt" in the trial of a man charged with the indecent treatment of a child

    "You know, you can look at where the front foot is, you can look at the height of the ball, you can look at the snicker [sic] and any other replays that are available. And if you're satisfied of all those things, the batsman's out."  

    The batsman won a retrial from Margaret McMurdo P, with HH saying:  

    "To liken the reaching of a verdict in a jury trial on five serious charges involving the sexual abuse of a little girl to an umpire's LBW decision in a cricket match is apt to trivialise the solemn role the community demands of jurors." 

    This is almost comparable to the 2009 drama surrounding Greg's wardrobe and the crooked mirror in his chambers. 

    This was a long simmering affair uncovered by The Bowen Hills Bugle's fearless FOI investigations unit.  

    Koppendol's associate Dearne Kraschenefski emailed the Ipswitch court registrar, Jason Schubert, seeking to press him into action. 

    "The mirror is crooked and the cupboard is far too small. Judge's robes don't fit in it without them dragging on the bottom of it." 

    A quotation from a carpenter and an artist's impression for the cupboard and mirror were produced. 

    Official documents showed: 

    "The hanger needs to be at least 190cm off the ground and the unit itself is only 180cm. The present hanging rod is only 140cm off the ground."

    All up, the refit to Koppendol's chambers, which were on the verge of being demolished to make way for a new courthouse, came to $25,000. 

    Five months later it came to light that Greg, as president of the Land and Resources Tribunal, along with two of his colleagues, had demanded larger offices with ensuite bathrooms in an unsuccessful push for a $2 million refit.  

    He regarded this as a, "fundamental issue which goes to the independence of the position of a judicial officer". 

    The Land and Resources Tribunal was the judicial equivalent of the pub with no beer. It had so few cases that it was closed down. 

    Greg landed at the Dizzo, but kept his entitlements, including the equivalent of a Supreme Court judge's pay packet. 

    *   *   *

    Roughshagger: faster than a speeding bullet

    ACT Supreme's Justice Refshauge has picked-up the pace and is spitting out judgments at a fearsome rate. 

    In R v Sarbandi he conducted a judge alone criminal trial involving charges of sexual intercourse without consent.  

    The accused only had to wait 16 months for a verdict, with the trial running from late August to early December 2012 and Roughshagger's reasons coming down on March 17, 2014. 

    At paragraph 417 we found the well-worn words: 

    "I sincerely regret that the pressure of business of the court has delayed the delivery of this judgment.  Nevertheless, notwithstanding the passage of time, I had a good recall of the proceedings and the witnesses. I have also carefully read the whole transcript and reviewed the exhibits. I had access to my contemporaneous notes." 

    This speedy output puts into the shadows the judge's four-and-a-bit years to decide that a public housing tenant shouldn't be turfed out of his home.   

    Chief Justice Helen Murrell must be cracking the whip. 

    *   *   *

    NSW lawyers' disciplinary registerThe mystery of the lawyers' dilapidated disciplinary register in NSW has been solved - sort of. 

    [Should that be the dilapidated lawyers' disciplinary register? - Ed.] 

    Symn Waters, a one man lawyer watchdog, earlier this month wrote to the acting NSW Legal Services Commissioner asking about the state of the disciplinary register and why the names of so many spanked lawyers had been absent from the list for so long. 

    For the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner to be in breach of the Legal Profession Act  is quite inspirational. 

    Anyway, this month the acting Legal Services Commissioner, Jim Milne, sent an explanation to Symn: 

    "I understand the omissions from the register arose from a single internal administrative systems failure. 

    This was caused by a misunderstanding about what was needed to trigger the making of an entry on the register." 

    Milne also pointed out that the LPA exempts the OLSC from liability, "in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in good faith" concerning the register - see s.580 LPA.  

    Everyone thought that this provision was designed to protect the OLSC against defamation actions from lawyers angry that their names had been posted in the bad book. 

    It's nice to see a more expansive interpretation so as to protect a single internal administrative systems failure. 

    Bravo.  

    As for a decision on who should be the substantive LSC, a spokesmodel for attorney general Smith told us: 

    "The AG has resolved to wait until the establishment of the new Legal Services Council before finalising the appointment of a new NSW Legal Services Commissioner.

    Jim Milne, Assistant Commissioner (Complaint), has been appointed as Acting Commissioner and is doing a good job." 

    *   *   *

    Chris Kenny (centre) on his way to PM Abbott's favoured scribes dinner

    So we come to the thin-skinned hack, News Corp scribbler and SkyNews pontificator, Chris Kenny. 

    Kenny is suing Aunty over the dog copulation spoof on the Chaser lads' Hampster Wheel. 

    Justice Beech-Jones ruined a lot of the fun by striking out the most important of Kenny's imputations:

    "The plaintiff is a pervert who had sexual intercourse with a dog." 

    We can all rest more peacefully in the knowledge that the tryst between the dog and the journalist did not really happen. 
     
    Anyway, Kenny Boy is upset and demanding vindication. A chorus of his pals at The Daily Rupert are shouting their support from the sidelines. 

    It's not as though News Corp is beyond indulging in a bit of sexual parody itself. 

    Who can forget Bill Leak's toon in The Australian of Indonesian prez Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono having sex with a Papuan. 

    This was a bit of tit-for-tat following publication in the Indonesian newspaper Rakyat Merdeka of a front page editorial cartoon showing John Howard and Alexander Downer as dingoes, going doggy type things, with Howard saying: 

    "I want Papua Alex! Try to make it happen!" 

    Talk about hilarious. 

    Then there was the News of the World's publication of two Australian actors, whose heads had been superimposed on the bodies of near-naked models in pornographic poses. 

    The House of Lords said this did not necessarily amount to defamation if the other content associated with the picture "neutralised" the defamatory meaning. However, it was up to the jury. 

    Just after the Hampster Wheel went to air Kenny posted a Tweet referring to Chas Licciardello, one of the stars of the TV show who also featured in the segment on Kenny. 

    At that point Kenny made out it was all frightfully amusing. 


    The columnist's angst about the ABC goes back 19 years to a Media Watch piece that made allegations about his involvement in the Hindmarsh Island bridge affair in SA and secret Aboriginal women's business. 



    This News Corp sage had a previous career as a PR man and chief of staff to Lord Downer. He was an Iraq war enthusiast and did some mean spinning when the AWB scandal bubbled to the surface. 

    He's also a failed Liberal Party candidate. 

    Importantly, in 1985 he won the National Tree Program Media Award in 1985 working for The Murray Pioneer in Renmark. 

    A CV doesn't come much more impressive than that. Give the man some money. 

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