find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Merits of national judiciary examined

Merits of national judiciary examined

A senate committee into Australia's judicial system and the role of judges has heard evidence from experts about plans for a national judiciary, changes to appointments and complaints about…

A senate committee into Australia's judicial system and the role of judges has heard evidence from experts about plans for a national judiciary, changes to appointments and complaints about judicial officers.

Justice Ruth McColl, president of the Judicial Conference of Australia, told the committee that a national judiciary, which would allow judges to sit in different jurisdictions around the country, is desirable but that legislation in each state and territory would be required.

She added that cross-fertilisation of judicial experience could provide many benefits.

"Just dealing with the substantive legal position, one's experience is always enhanced by the infusion of ideas from other jurisdictions, and so just the fact of sitting on various different courts would bring a benefit to the public in a form of indirect legal education," she said.

"For the courts, the obvious advantage to which I referred earlier is the immediate filling of holes when there is a shortage of judges."

When it came to the appointment of judges, Dr Andrew Lynch and Professor George Williams, directors of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, advocated the creation of a judicial appointments commission, although they emphasised that the final decision should remain with the executive.

Professor Williams said the commission could put forward recommendations to the attorney-general, which could ensure the process was transparent and would improve community confidence.

"In the past, attorneys of both sides of politics have used the word 'merit' - which is useful only in a very broad rhetorical sense. It really does not give us a strong indication of how the process works or the criteria that are applied," he said.

"One of the strong arguments, I believe, for a judicial appointments commission is to provide a formalised way to ensure that the community is involved. I would even consider [that] a majority on that body, perhaps, should be members of the community to emphasise the fact of who is being served."

The senate committee also questioned representatives about the possibility of an independent federal entity, which would examine complaints from the community about judges.

Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe of the Federal Magistrates Court advocated the idea to ensure complainants felt that matters were being dealt with objectively.

"Sometimes the view is expressed that the court receives the complaint about the court and does not deal with it in the same way that a truly external party would do," he said.

"I think it would be an opportunity, for example, to bring in a very experienced, retired judge and perhaps someone with other qualifications - psychology being one - that could give us some feedback from the complaints they see about what we could do by way of judicial education to perhaps remove some of the things that upset and irritate litigants and perhaps make them feel they have not been properly heard."

The Judicial Commission of New South Wales is an independent body already established that examines complaints, provides ongoing training and education for judicial officers and monitors sentencing.

Chief Executive Ernet Schmatt said the complaints function has worked well in NSW.

"It provides people who have a grievance with a place where they can take their grievance and it will be properly investigated by an independent body. It also protects judges from scurrilous complaints because, during that preliminary investigation stage, everything is dealt with in private so there is no harm done to the reputation of the judicial officer," he said.

He added that last financial year 66 complaints were received. There are approximately 300 judicial officers who deal with in excess of 500, 000 cases a year.

The Committee is due to report its findings on 17 August.

- Sarah Sharples

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Merits of national judiciary examined
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice, ALA, right-to-die law
Oct 24 2017
‘Right-to-die’ laws would be a relief for terminally ill: ALA
The passage of an assisted dying bill through the lower house of Victorian Parliament has been haile...
Oct 24 2017
Diversity top of agenda for future WA Law Society president
The advancement of diversity in the Western Australian legal profession will be one of the key items...
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...