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Devil in detail of court restructure: Aus Bar

Devil in detail of court restructure: Aus Bar

"The devil, and God, will be in the detail" of the recently announced restructure of the Federal, Federal Magistrates and Family courts, according to the vice president of the Australian Bar Association.

“The devil, and God, will be in the detail” of the recently announced restructure of the Federal, Federal Magistrates and Family courts, according to the vice president of the Australian Bar Association. 

As lawyers and other commentators rush to welcome or pan the changes, Peter Riordan SC says the result will depend on how the work is distributed between the courts.  

The basic blueprint for the changes are well known, with all family law matters to be consolidated under the Family Court, and all general federal law matters to move under the Federal Court. The Federal Magistrates Court will be completely dissolved. 

“The reforms will effectively create a one-stop-shop in family and other federal law matters, ensuring an integrated and accessible system that focuses on dispute resolution," McClelland said.

Amid suggestions Federal Court judges will be put out by news that the Federal Magistrates Court will be abolished, Riordan SC has labeled such claims “false speculation”. 

Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, announced this week the restructure would save $7.8 million over four years, and would include merging the Federal Magistrates Court into the Family Court and the Federal Court. 

A The New Lawyer reader this week argued that the overhaul of the court system would anger Federal Court judges, for whom the quality of work will be “substantially diluted”. 

But Riordan claims, however, the changes are likely to help Federal Court judges’ ability to move matters back down to the Federal magistrates much more easily. The unifying of the administrations should help the workflow, he said. 

“I’m a bit of an optimist about it. I think it’s a positive move. But I am the first to say both the Devil and God will be in the detail of how it’s implemented, Riordan said. “I suppose I am not sure whether anyone is on top of the detail.”

Riordan said he doesn’t anticipate that there will be a difference in the work that the judges of the Federal Court will be dealing with and the judges of the Family Court will be dealing with. 

“Rather administratively it will all be dealt with either in the Federal Court or the Family Court.”


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