Jock Anderson 's Opinion

A weekly look behind the scenes of the legal profession and the halls of justice.

Jock Anderson's CaseLoad

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Veteran journalist Jock Anderson joins the Herald with his new weekly CaseLoad column looking behind the scenes at the legal profession
New Zealand's first celebrity judge? Simon Moore. Photo /  Dean Purcell.
New Zealand's first celebrity judge? Simon Moore. Photo / Dean Purcell.

By Way Of Introduction

"What you need to understand, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, hoisting himself closer to the Bombay, "is that the law gets us into everything.

You see, without law and all that legal stuff, life would be pretty dull. In fact, life as we know it just wouldn't be.

So when you and your scribbling cronies are out there doing your damnedest to take the whatsit, shove the poker and blow the raspberry, don't lose sight of that noble institution we legal folk honour and revere."

That constantly evolving crucible of wisdom and integrity before which all men are judged in the face of adversity and without fear or favour..."

"You mean Her Majesty's higher Courts?" said CaseLoad.

"No, numbskull...the Ladies and Escorts Lounge. Now, your round I believe..." said OMATB.

"Check the change," said The Scunner.

Let Them Eat Cake

Chocolate biscuits have been scrapped as Auckland's legal hierarchy struggles with rising salary costs, falling revenue and low membership numbers.

At odds with the Auckland district law society (ADLS) management are lawyer tenants of the society's landmark Chancery Chambers headquarters in downtown Auckland.

Lawyer tenants now have to pay for meeting rooms which were previously free.

The meeting rooms were available free for several years because some of the offices rented by lawyers are not big enough or suitable to meet clients in.

Outraged lawyer tenants - most, but not all, of them ADLS members - formed a "consultative body" to challenge ADLS over cost increases and other newly-imposed conditions which tenants see as counter-productive and too expensive.

ADLS backed down, reduced the meeting room charges to ADLS members for advance bookings and made bookings free if made a day ahead for a vacant room.

As one legal wag put it, that's a bit like finding you have leased a flash new office but have to pay extra to use the toilet or lift - and book a day ahead.

But back to the chokkie bikkies.

Previously a modest treat enjoyed by tenants in the society's kitchen, popular Macaroons, Squiggles and Toffee Pops were scrapped last year.

According to a couple of CaseLoad's usually reliable sources, tenant protest resulted in the brief appearance of a fruit basket amid talk of plain vanilla wines and digestives.

Some say Biscuit-Gate is yet be resolved.

For the record the Auckland district law society (ADLS) recently reported an annual deficit of $283,923 to the year ended June 30, 2013, with a corresponding reduction in reserves.

Outgoing president Frank Godinet - who has been replaced by Brian Keene QC - says the deficit was as a result of investment in upgrading IT systems and further investment in continuing professional development. Mr Godinet, whose honorarium was $117,667, says the current financial year is forecast to return to surplus.

And while the number of lawyers continues to increase nationally - at June 30, 2013 there were 12,133 current practising certificate-holding members of the New Zealand Law Society - voluntary membership of the stand-alone Auckland district law society appears to have flagged.

The ADLS annual report shows a membership of 2,645 - which includes some lawyers recruited from outside Auckland. A few years ago membership was about 5,000. The report says overall membership is increasing.

In recent years other district law societies amalgamated with the NZ Law Society. Auckland chose to remain independent mainly to preserve ownership of its multi-million dollar assets and control of its monopoly on revenue-earning legal forms.

A quick read of the society's financials shows it held $2.435 million cash, plus $10.260million worth of property, plant and equipment - including its Chancery Chambers headquarters, which carries a 2010 valuation of $9.6 million.

Salaries and wages increased from $1,374,898 to $1,470.062 while operating revenue fell.

The membership levy was down from $349,924 to $339,389; interest income was down from $112,050 to $102,035; rent income fell from $523,361 to $494,066 and what was described as "other income" fell from $3,255,889 to $3,130,465.

In March the society's annual general meeting barely got off the ground when not enough members turned up to form a quorum.

Hasty chasing around found a few more souls to make up the numbers but some members complained the poorly-attended agm was still late in starting.

Let's Talk About Simon

One of Auckland's best-loved lawyers, Queen's Counsel Simon John Eisdell Moore (not yet 60 we are told), was sworn in the other day as a puisne judge of the High Court of New Zealand.

Described by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias as New Zealand's first celebrity judge - a line which brought the house down - Justice Moore's anointment by Attorney General Chris Finlayson is approved and warmly welcomed by legal folk, many of whom packed Auckland's grand old Number One High Court for the ceremonials.

One jurist unable to attend bemoaned not being able to witness how Justice Moore's famous luxuriant mane would cope with the confines of his new longbottom wig.

"Jolly good show, if you ask me," said Our Man At The Bar, downing a celebratory pint of merlot. "Made a note for future reference of who wasn't there..."

"Moore J will make an excellent fist of it and greatly enhance the sometimes underplayed decorative aspects of judging.

Flair and flamboyance is what we need from those dispensing justice, CaseLoad.

Some knowledge of law is useful at times but those in the know say it's all in the delivery.

And make no mistake Moore J knows his law, not to mention just the right camera angle," said OMATB.

Justice Moore served his apprenticeship at Auckland firm Meredith Connell, where he was made Crown Solicitor in 1994. The old established firm is going through strained times.

The firm's Crown warrant is up for review - don't go reading anything untoward in that - there's no sign of a new Crown Solicitor appointment yet - again nothing uneasy there - and a few top end briefs have moved on - all firms have a few comings and goings.

[Justice Moore's brother Christopher, president of the New Zealand Law Society, quit his Meredith Connell partnership a year ago to join a new Auckland branch of Wellington-based boutique commercial firm Greenwood Roche Chisnall - saying at the time it would give him control of his own destiny. Leading criminal prosecutor Ross Burns retired from Meredith Connell at the same time.]

"Then there's that industrial dispute ruckus involving folk who had to be let go, I'm told, in the financial interests of the firm," said OMATB.

"But as we know, CaseLoad, these are just some of the thorns oft sent to irritate legal folk...So just grin and bare it, chap.

Anyway, I here Moore J got one over you the other day when you were being your usual ingratiating self.

He reckons one of the things he is going to enjoy about being a High Court judge is that when he next sees Jock Anderson you will have to call him Sir...

"There's a Chief Justice in the making, CaseLoad...Remember where you heard it first."

Bloke At The Next Leaner

"Here I am, working my proverbials to the bone day and night in the service of her gracious Majesty the Queen and what thanks do I get? Eh? Not a damned skerrick, that's what..." said A Bloke At The Next Leaner.

"No mention in the Honours, no hint of a sword tap on the shoulder...

Day after day, week after week it's trial this, conference that, adjournment the other, application to exclude, application to include, appeal whatever, not to mention lengthy enforced sabbaticals in Tuscany...

When will it ever end???"

No, CaseLoad, I'm afraid it's every longbottom for himself at this end of the greasy pole...Be a sport and top up the tipple, there's a good chap..."

"I'm obliged, Your Honour," murmured CaseLoad, shaking change from the charity box.

"Watch him..." said The Scunner.

- NZ Herald

Jock Anderson

A weekly look behind the scenes of the legal profession and the halls of justice.

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