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
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and his pals have been trying to apply the brakes on legal aid. Photo / NZ Herald
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and his pals have been trying to apply the brakes on legal aid. Photo / NZ Herald

A Judicial Lady Writes:
"Dear CaseLoad,
No-one was more thrilled than My Honourship to learn you had returned from sabbatical to tickle our collective fancies once more.

When I broke the news in the Lady J's Common Room there were shrieks of delight all round, save for you-know-who, whose wee face fair soured our Bombay lemons.

Never mind, CaseLoad, having you back in our folds, as it were, has got us kicking up our finely-turned ankles and scrabbling for some rather tasty MoJ-issue lippy.

Can't wait to catch up on the goss down at the Ladies and Escorts Lounge soonest...
BiBi
Yours Judicially (Name withheld by order of the Court)
PS: The Northern Club's Dungeon Room hasn't been the same without you..."

A Senior Judicial Communications Advisor Writes:
"CaseLoad,
I am directed by Her Honour (name withheld by order of the Court) to advise you in no uncertain terms that should there be any repeat of your previous utter disrespect and irreverence towards Their Collective Gracious Honours the Queen's Judges, you can expect to suffer the harshest of sanctions.
Consider yourself told.
Signed
A Senior Judicial Communications Advisor (We don't give out our names to the likes of you).
PS: By the way, did you get the brown envelope of fivers I dropped off at the Ladies and Escorts Lounge the other day to ensure you at least spell Justice You-Know-Who-I-Mean's name right?"

Meanwhile, There's A Wee Windfall

"I say, Scunner," whooped Our Man At The Bar. "Look what's turned up in CaseLoad's pidgeon hole...A brownie full of loot! Fivers by the bucket...Finders keepers, eh, sport???
Drinks all round...Make mine a Big Jug of the finest house Merlot...Better leave him enough for a Radler..."
"Losers weepers," said The Scunner, necking back a Parfait d'Amour.
[Whooping it Up is a venerable legal term which refers to the celebratory consequences surrounding the arrival of a long-overdue legal aid cheque.]

Of No Consequence Whatsover
Ever wondered why some lawyers have the initials PG??? It's true...stands for Plead Guilty...

Thousands Don't Take To The Streets
Thousands of New Zealand lawyers have so far failed to take to the streets in protest at the groaning legal aid gravy train.

Unlike their rowdy English and Welsh cronies - more than 2,000 of whom demonstrated outside Britain's Houses of Parliament the other day claiming the justice system was in meltdown and legal aid fees were at an irreducible minimum - Kiwi briefs are getting on with the job of taking what they can.

A usually talkative spokesman for the Criminal Bar Association could not be readily contacted for comment - colleagues saying he was not due back from his Aspen skiing holiday for a "wee while yet."

For the record, millions of taxpayers' dollars are spent every year on lawyers defending large numbers of criminals, most of whom are not only found guilty but were guilty all along.

In New Zealand many lawyers consider it their right to make huge amounts of money from legal aid, despite numerous attempts by government officials to tackle large increases in legal aid costs.

"I'll remind you of a few facts about the rapidly rising cost of legal aid to the long-suffering taxpayer, CaseLoad," said OMATB.

"According to official figures, spending on legal aid grew from $111 million in 2006/07 to $172 million in 2009/10. After some initial reforms and changes in administration, spending fell to $169 million in 2010/11.

One of the reasons spending increased was a Labour government decision to widen the eligibility to include less serious family and civil cases, plus an increase in fees paid to so-called "legal aid lawyers" in 2008.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and his pals have been trying to apply the brakes ever since.

In a survey of 1,000 New Zealanders in 2011 only 15 per cent agreed legal aid operated in a way which provided value for money, and only 23 per cent agreed it was provided only to those who needed it.

More significantly, old sport, a related survey found one-third of legal aid lawyers did not believe legal aid was provided only to those who needed it while 25 per cent did not agree legal aid provided value for money. Harrumph..."

"I'll wager they were run out of town," said The Scunner.

Disturbing News About Inferior Judges

CaseLoad has been made aware of strange and unusual circumstances in the inferior courts.

It seems district court judges - for they are an inferior lot - who reach retirement age are not all taking up the lucrative opportunity to beef up their gold-plated pensions by becoming acting or ring-in judges.

The story, as relayed by the usually reliable Bloke at the Next Leaner, goes something like this.

When a district court judge retires, they are offered a nice little earner to continue on as acting judges to help deal with some of the heavy judging workload.

In the main this usually involved sitting on some interesting cases including perhaps the odd juicy jury trial and was seen as a cosy way of keeping the judicial mind ticking over while picking up some Tuscany pin money.

Now it seems, those jolly days may be over.

Some disgruntled judges are said to be saying No because the judging jobs on offer are to deal with rats and mice rubbishy stuff considered beneath their skills and dignity.

"The problem now, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, "is what to do with a burgeoning heap of retired beaks who have time on their hands, nothing to do with it and all day to do it in..."

"Work made for idle hands," said The Scunner.

Collins' Crime-Free Christmas Clanger

Meanwhile, CaseLoad can reveal Justice Minister Judith Collins' bold plan to eliminate crime by last Christmas has laid an egg.

According to a well-placed Ministry of Justice source (name withheld by request) Minister Collins has been bombarded by submissions from thousands of lawyers demanding to know what will happen to them when crime disappears.

"It seems, CaseLoad, that when the Minister embarked on this worthy and exciting project, she forgot to consider the implications thousands of out-of-work lawyers would have on her government's rosy unemployment figures," said the source.

"The Minister is bamboozled," said the source. "Ever motivated by noble intent, she believed she was doing her lawyer chums a big favour by keeping them out of the grubby criminal courts by giving them more time for golf and watching the cricket at Lords."

"Back to the ouija board," said The Scunner.

Eggsaperation Down The Lane

The brow of senior Auckland crime barrister, head of Vulcan Chambers and well-known Epsom egg farmer, Roger P Chambers furrowed the other morning when he noticed his Vulcan Lane office tower had been "egged."

It seems a chambers junior, identified only as Shazza, had taken more ale than was good for him and left some freebie eggs on a nearby pub leaner.

And because Shazza had been a social pain, a jolly wag, identified only as Scotty, decided to get even by chucking the abandoned eggs at stately Vulcan Chambers.

"Egged with my own eggs, would you believe..." intoned Mr Chambers. "There shall be consequences."

Next Time:
The untold story of what really happened when a High Court judge was sworn in, sensitive issues are raised by "I am Curious", a lady practitioner, while a judge pleads for kindness.

- NZ Herald

Jock Anderson

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

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