A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

Jock Anderson's Caseload: Judges do it the old way

L-R: Anna-Marie Skellern, Judge Bridget Mackintosh, Chief Justice Sian Elias and Judge Peter Callinicos at a special sitting of the High Court at Napier. Photo HBT
L-R: Anna-Marie Skellern, Judge Bridget Mackintosh, Chief Justice Sian Elias and Judge Peter Callinicos at a special sitting of the High Court at Napier. Photo HBT

A pricey computer project called eBench - aimed at modernising the work of the judiciary, and which is said to have so far cost taxpayers more than $15 million, fails as judges continue to embrace pen and paper.

"At last someone has taken a sensible stand, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, cracking open a brace of Crabbies.

"It was never going to work, all these computer gizmos with wires everywhere and Their Honours having to come to grips with apps for sentencing, apps for lunch breaks, apps for calculating annual leave and apps for getting their seams straight.

As you know, there are many of us who favour doing away with all this pre-sentencing nonsense, psycho-babble reports, insincere apologies, meetings with victims, support groups - not to mention time-wasting rot from snivelling lawyers.

Short, sharp punishment on the spot is what's called for, CaseLoad...

Busy judges don't need to hear a jail-destined villain's excuse that he brutally attacked a little old war pensioner because he didn't get his wheelchair out of the way quick enough."

[Isn't this item about eBench and the judiciary's struggle to adapt in order to deliver better results to court clients??? Just asking - Ed]

"Computers, shommputers," roared OMATB, swilling back a Big Jug of merlot. "Nothing wrong with quills and parchment - plus a diligent hot-pokering for those who whine..."

"Glad we got that one resolved," said The Scunner.

A President Writes
Auckland district law society inc (ADLSi) president and Queen's Counsel Brian Keene won't say how many members the society has.

A couple of weeks ago, and in the interests of accuracy, CaseLoad asked ADLSi chief executive Sue Keppel how membership renewals had been so far this year and what the current financial membership was.

ADLSi has been a voluntary organisation since 2009, before which compulsory membership has been estimated by some lawyers as up to about 5000.

Ms Keppel did not answer the membership questions so answers were sought from Mr Keene.

In his reply, Mr Keene says it is not the policy of ADLSi to release information of the sort sought by CaseLoad.

"That is because the numbers fluctuate up and down throughout the year so make comparisons misleading," said Mr Keene.

He says comment in the media the 2009 membership was 5000 is, "in fact, quite wrong."

Membership numbers are released to members in annual reports, copies of which Mr Keene notes are usually obtained by the media.

ADLSi's last annual report, to September 2013, showed total membership to be 2645 - an increase of "some 20%" on the opening membership in 2009.

That would suggest an original membership of about 2115 in 2009.

On the basis ADLSi says a quarter of its membership (about 661) is now from outside Auckland, it seems fewer than 2000 Auckland lawyers have chosen to join.

Which suggests that while out of town membership has grown, membership by Auckland lawyers has remained static or fallen.

On the other hand, all lawyers are required by law to be members of the New Zealand Law Society, which currently has about 12,130 members nationwide and - as of this week - 5,363 in its Auckland branch (which includes Whangarei and the Coromandel.)

What Price Rumpy Pumpy?
It may have escaped notice how a court in Botswana has ordered 26-year old adultress Kemiso Dijokota to pay 60,000 pula (NZ $7,822.20) compensation for wrecking another woman's marriage.

Naledi Mogae, a finance manager for a Christian charity who was trying to patch up her rocky marriage, accused petrol station worker Miss Dijokota of moving into her home and acting as "wife" to Mr Mogae when she was away.

According to a report in Botswana's Voice newspaper, intimate evidence captured by cameras Mrs Mogae hid in the marital bedroom led the Donga Customary Court to conclude her case was watertight and indisputable.

It's Not About Judith
If Justice Minister Judith Collins has crossed any line it is to engage in snarky digs at reporters - as is evidenced in the affair of ex-Green MP Sue Bradford's daughter Katie - without producing facts to back them up.

Reporters are not without fault but this is lacking in dignity and in the eyes of some folk reduces Miss Collins to unseemly cat-fighting.

By doing so she denigrates the one portfolio which must at all times be seen to be beyond reproach - Justice.

Miss Collins - who is generally regarded as a fun sort to be with - has been poorly advised since her regular chats with CaseLoad all but dried up a while ago.

While regarded by Prime Minister John Key as a good minister, Miss Collins - who at 55 may be facing some life challenges and now has a few days off to refresh herself - could yet learn that the portfolio has stouter longevity than she who holds it.

By the way, whatever happened to David Cullen Bain's claim for compensation and why has everything gone quiet on that front???

Glorious And Free*
From a country noted for its sensible knickers and footwear guaranteed not to let you down on icy footpaths, comes this item.

The case of Canadian Nigel Evans, who was acquitted of a string of sexual offences, has shown up what commentators say is the sheer injustice of a system which prohibits an acquitted defendant from recovering the costs of his defence.

Mr Evans claimed to be out of pocket by a six figure sum - the bulk of his life savings.

As is the case in Canada and here, investigators and prosecutors have at their disposal the full resources of the state, including the freedom to choose the most senior (and expensive) lawyer to present their case and get paid even if the case fails.

In Canada, it seems, someone "lucky" enough to be acquitted is financially on their own.

And here's the rub.

Because a lot of court work these days involves domestic violence, Canadian judges see more applications to make a restraining order on acquittal.

This, in effect, means they find someone not guilty "but we are making an order to make sure you don't do it again."

Well-off New Zealand lawyers adept at harvesting taxpayer-funded legal aid are said to be concerned, thanking their lucky stars "it could never happen here."

"Win or lose we get paid," said an informal spokesman propping up the next leaner.

But here's another rub.

Canada has in the last 20 or so years emerged as a country whose justice system and judicial practice is seen as a modern example New Zealand might in part copy.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias is a particular fan of the Canadian way.

Interestingly, the Canadian legal aid programme appears far less generous than New Zealand's.

Canadian legal aid is primarily for folk accused of serious and/or complex criminal offences and facing the likelihood of jail, and for youths charged under that country's Youth Criminal Justice Act.

It is also available for certain immigration, refugee, public security and anti-terrorism cases.

As steps are taken to further reduce the cost of legal aid in New Zealand some folk would support a closer look at - and possible implementation of - the Canadian experience.

[* from Canada's national anthem O Canada.]

Cheryl's Missing Gap Years
CaseLoad awaits new Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn's official confirmation that after leaving university in 1979 and before going to work at the race relations office she worked for some six years at Whakatu meat works - where it is reported she was an active member of the Socialist Action League and involved in fighting the union to allow women to become butchers.

It's not in her CV.

"The Sisterhood should be proud of such an achievement," said The Scunner.

This Week's Question
Does the lawyer-free zone in Vulcan Lane apply to public holidays?

Still To Come
Inside a pair of mature lady briefs.

News Just In
CaseLoad expects to have details soon of a hastily-formed support group for lawyers and judges struggling to come to grips with last week's shock revelation they are subject to New Zealand tax laws.

- NZ Herald

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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

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