SA Law Society fights for ‘chronically underfunded’ courts
In the lead-up to the South Australian budget announcement, the state law society has called on the government to substantially boost court funding.
Law Society of South Australia president David Caruso described the state court system as “chronically under-funded”, particularly at the district court level.
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“The District Court needs more judges and courtrooms. Other things may work but those measures will work,” he said.
“Investment in personnel, infrastructure and technology has been more positive this year than it has in the past, and that should continue in the interests of resourcing courts to accommodate the needs of litigants.”
While he agreed that the courts should pursue more efficient practices, he emphasised that the underlying issue was a lack of resources.
“Efficiency measures without funding commitments are window dressing,” he said.
His comments mirror the Law Society’s formal budget submission from earlier this year, which called for action on 10 key points including funding for a new courts precinct, new courtrooms and judges in the District Court and a CTP review.
The society also announced it would be launching a survey into workplace health and safety risks linked to the state’s court buildings.
In an email newsletter last month, South Australian Bar Association president Andrew Harris QC shared an anecdote about being trapped in a lift in the Supreme Court Library building.
“In the 10 or 15 minutes that I was imprisoned in the elevator I reflected on the condition of the land and ‘improvements’ which comprise the Supreme Court precinct,” he said.
“I was unable to decide on the appropriate descriptor but managed to narrow it down to ‘appalling’, ‘shamefully neglected’ and/or ‘a public disgrace’.”
Mr Harris has previously lobbied for redevelopment of the Supreme Court precinct and urged the government to commit funding to the project.
“One must also ask the question of why the government is prepared to spend money like a drunken sailor on the glittering new arts and entertainment precinct adjacent to Parliament House, the Festival Theatre and Adelaide Oval, and yet consistently fails to support the administration of justice in this state,” he said.
“Lack of funding is not at the heart of this issue, but rather it is a lack of commitment to the third arm of government.”
The state budget for South Australia is due to be announced later this evening.