IN AN emotive speech to legal practitioners in Tasmania, a top judge has underlined the importance of an independent judiciary and the collaborative relationship between judges and barristers in the service of the law.
Speaking at a Bench and Bar dinner in Hobart, Chief Justice Peter Underwood of the Tasmanian Supreme Court said the event was an affirmation of the values that underpin the practice of a barrister at an independent bar. This was duty first to the court, second to the client and third to the general public.
Quoting Sir Frank Kitto, who said the Bar is no ordinary profession or occupation, Chief Justice Underwood said: “A barrister is more than his client’s confidant, adviser and advocate, and must therefore possess more than honesty, learning and forensic ability,” the judge said.
The Chief Justice said the independent bar in that state had come of age, from being a “fledgling organisation that began its life about 20 years ago with two or three practitioners who chose to practice exclusively as barristers”.
He said a strong and independent bar is made up of barristers who work without fear of reprisal against their clients’ cause, and barristers who assist the courts to uphold the law.
The Chief Justice argued that to effectively practice the law, barristers should have a relationship of “intimate collaboration with the judges”.
The media was targeted as being disbelieving in judicial independence, particularly The Australian newspaper’s Legal Affairs Editor Chris Merritt, who the judge said, among others who work for the media, may not believe it. He did not, however, explain his criticism.
The Chief Justice outlined what he saw to be the role of barristers in the court. “A barrister is more than his client’s confidant, adviser and advocate, and must therefore possess more than honesty, learning and forensic ability. He is, by virtue of a long tradition, in a relationship of intimate collaboration with the judges, as well as with his fellow members of the Bar, in the high task of endeavouring to make successful the service of the law to the community,” he said.