SOON TO be appointed Chief Justice of Western Australia, Wayne Martin QC, has announced plans to make the state’s justice system cheaper, more accessible and relevant.
These plans will be eagerly anticipated by the profession, according to Scott Crabb, litigation and dispute resolution coordinator for the Perth office of Clayton Utz.
“It is obviously desirable that ordinary citizens of the state should have access to an affordable and comprehensible system of justice. This is an important democratic right”, Crabb said.
It is essential that the system is be actively supported by the business community, Crabb said. “As a practising lawyer, I have an obvious interest in legal work being conducted in this state. I wish to see a vibrant future for the Western Australian legal community and for our sons and daughters who will seek to join the legal community in years to come,” he said.
“It makes good business sense for commercial disputes to be resolved locally. The state is known internationally as the location of world-class projects and a centre for excellence in mining, energy and resources. The expense associated with litigating disputes in London or Sydney is considerable and the aggravation factor is huge. If one has confidence in the system, why not enjoy the benefits of resolving any disputes that might arise in a low cost jurisdiction like WA?” he said.
Some reforms in particular will interest the business community, said Crabb. “Those of us who represent parties in commercial disputes each have our own priorities but I would expect there to be strong support for the swift introduction of the uniform evidence legislation, the establishment of a Commercial Court based on the English, Victorian or New South Wales models, and a docket system for cases in the Supreme Court of the type that has operated so successfully in the Federal Court.”
Likely to be more contentious are reforms aimed at limiting the scope and number of pre-trial procedures. Crabb suggested that considerable differences of opinion could be expected to emerge in the legal community. “My own personal view is that the business community has an interest in seeing disputes resolved quickly. If fewer pre-trial procedures are needed to achieve that objective then I would not be surprised if business leaders take the view that the reforms should be supported. As ever, we shall have to wait and see what is proposed,” he said.