A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

Jock Anderson's Caseload: No shorts please

No shorts allowed in court says a US judge. file photo/Getty
No shorts allowed in court says a US judge. file photo/Getty

On A Serious Note

Mounting concern is expressed in latte lounges and other places of light refreshment which legal folk are required to frequent about the calamitous doings of a rogue judge.

It seems His Honour has taken to regularly delivering judgments which fail to include the word Not in front of Guilty.

"It comes without warning and is a bad look," said the last bloke standing after a particularly rollicking late-night Criminal Bar Association 'bench and bar' frolic.

"Leaving words such as Not out of judgments lets the side down, does nothing for our financial future, is an outrage and is just not cricket," said Last Bloke Standing.

Word is His 'out of control' Honour will be named and shamed if he doesn't quickly come to his senses, pull himself together and get his judicial spanner out of the works.

Watch this space...

Leftover From Last Week

All New Zealand lawyers are now required by law to complete a certain number of hours every year of what is called continuing professional development (CPD), if they want to stay in the job.

This is to ensure they keep up with the law, have some grasp of what it's all about and generally give value for money.

"I say, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, downing his tumbler of Bombay in one, "I do like what passes for CPD these days."

"No fewer than six photographed and Facebooked attendances at recently admitted members (RAMS) all-night hooleys...

Regular peeking into the lady briefs' robing room...

Smuggle at least two un-invited larrikins into the law society's rooftop Christmas knees-up...

Display aptitude for double-entry book keeping...

Easy peasy," said OMATB... "Don't mind if I do have another..."

"There's a couple of wee totties over there continually developing," said The Scunner.

Mailbox Chocker

After last week's exclusively informative item, CaseLoad's mailbox is bursting with requests from folk curious to know what else is in the Big Blue Chambers Book given to High Court judges upon their anointment - so here's another peek:

"Holders of judicial office should avoid frequenting or being seen around betting shops, snooker parlours, massage parlours, ice-cream parlours, Stella dens and hairdressers who advertise 'Three chairs, no Waiting'.

Look away and walk briskly by such establishments."

More Legal Aid Hand-Wringing

Small Wellington law firm Cooper Legal - a firm which has been given millions of taxpayer dollars by the government to sue the government - had something of a set-back the other day.

It seems Cooper Legal - whose principal is Sonja Maria Cooper - complained to Parliament's regulations review committee about an aspect of payment for legal aid work they were unhappy with.

According to the New Zealand Law Society, Cooper Legal's complaint related to an amendment to the legal aid regulations by the Legal Services Amendment Regulations 2013, which requires a legally-aided person to pay a modest $43.48 user charge to be eligible for legal aid.

Cooper Legal complained that the regulations did not exempt people pursuing claims of historic abuse and prison inmates - the very folk Cooper Legal relies on to make a crust - from the requirement to pay the charge.

These are folk the taxpayer pays Cooper Legal a lot of money to act for, mainly in claims against the government.

The regulations review committee found the grounds for Cooper Legal's complaint were not made out.

Because the Government's decision not to make regulations exempting historic abuse victims and prison inmates from paying the charge was a policy matter, the committee said it was well established it did not consider "matters of policy."

According to Cooper Legal's website - which proclaims the firm specialises in human rights abuse cases - and in addition to principal Sonja Cooper, the firm has one solicitor, two senior associates and two legal assistants.

For a number of years Cooper Legal has been a one of the country's biggest recipients of legal aid - receiving many millions of dollars.

For example, in the year to June 30, 2013 (the most up to date period) Legal Services Agency (LSA) figures show the firm was paid $1,463,859.44 - putting it at the top of the legal aid heap.

Others in the million-dollar plus class in 2013 included Tamaki Legal, Auckland ($1,387,396.46), Morrison Kent, Wellington ($1,378,696.51) and barrister David Martin Stone, Auckland ($1,286,545.03).

LSA figures show Cooper Legal was paid $1,125,498.68 in 2012; $1,489,644.67 in 2011 and $1,133,568.02 in 2010.

In 2012 Sonya Cooper was quoted saying that in the first half of that year claims for just under 300 of her firm's more than 700 clients were settled, which meant the LSA got back "significant repayments" from the clients.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the total legal aid spend in 2012/13 was $130,429,000 - a saving on the previous year of 12.5 per cent.

The ministry says legal aid is expected to cost $121,451,000 this financial year, with continuing small savings out to 2017/18.

It should be noted that not all the legal aid paid to Cooper Legal or any other law firm goes into the pockets of lawyers.

The LSA is at pains to explain how legal aid payments include the fees of listed providers - such as Cooper Legal - including those claimed on behalf of other listed legal aid providers, and disbursements for general office costs, travel costs, and special disbursements.

These include fees for agents, expert witnesses, forensic tests, interpreters and special reports.

To be fair, all lawyers of CaseLoad's acquaintance who receive legal aid say they give value for money.

"They would say that, wouldn't they?" said The Scunner.

[Legal aid payments to lawyers and law firms are public and details can be found on the LSA website, if you have a dig about.]

Not In Shorts

News that Dallas judge Etta Mullin refused to allow defence lawyer James Lee Bright to wear Bermuda shorts in court - he claimed an extensive knee brace made it difficult and uncomfortable to wear long trousers - is but one of a range of judicial foibles those at the bar have to grin and bare, or be held in contempt.

In New Zealand, unconventional or flashy clobber is frowned on in the higher court and there's even an official written code for what lawyers must wear.

For example, a dark (black, blue or dark grey) suit or skirt, white shirt or blouse, a tie for men, black shoes, dark socks or neutral/dark coloured pantyhose/stockings, and a gown.

A while back, the Christchurch High Court's Justice Maurice Casey, uncharacteristically irritable, ordered Douglas James Taffs from his court because the young barrister was wearing grey zip-up boots.

"I do not see you, Mr Taffs," His Honour repeated until the message sank through and Taffs retreated.

A Thought For Judith Collins

There does not appear to be any evidence she is hiding something, but usually-careful Justice Minister Judith Collins would have served her cause better by telling the whole story right at the beginning, rather than allowing a "Guess Who Came To Dinner" web of suspicion make her look as if she is.

Next Time

CaseLoad encounters a pair of mature lady briefs and ponders what the future holds for Auckland lawyers...

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

With a life-time of court reporting under his belt - and from the sanctuary of the Ladies & Escorts Lounge - journalist Jock Anderson produces law-flavoured news and views with a touch of humour - occasionally aided and abetted by disparate cronies including Our Man At The Bar and The Scunner.

Read more by Jock Anderson

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 30 Apr 2017 06:57:13 Processing Time: 772ms