The peak body representing Victorian lawyers has defended a slow down in the number of cases churned out by the state's courts, saying it's due to a litigation increase rather than a decrease in efficiency.
The Law Institute of Victoria said figures released today in the Productivity Commission report on government services, which ranked Victoria last in a national survey of civil cases cleared, is not the full picture.
The LIV argues that the Productivity Commission’s data had been criticised in past years as being inadequate and not taking into account issues such as number of judges, the complexity and length of cases and government funding for the justice system.
“Our courts cannot control the number of proceedings issued. There is an ebb and flow which is out of the control of the courts. The number of proceedings has increased substantially in recent years,” said president of the Law Institute of Victoria, Michael Holcroft.
An increase in litigation in the County Court and the Supreme Court of Victoria is behind a perceived slowdown in the number of cases processed in Victorian courts, he said.
“For example, since 2006-07, County Court commencements have gone from 4,909 to 6,675. Finalisations have gone from 4,830 to 5,775. At the same time there has been no real increase in judges.
“Anecdotally, Work Cover and TAC are requiring determination of more serious injury applications. These require judges to write very detailed judgments which take time.”
Holcroft said the Supreme Court had been active in promoting Victoria as the preferred venue to litigate and the increased number of commencements could be a result of the success of that initiative.
“Supreme Court civil initiations increased by 1.5 per cent in the past year. An increase in defended and complex trials has slowed the finalisation rate.
“In addition, Victoria has had a large number of class action litigation, including the bushfire and Thalidomide litigation, to name just two lengthy, high profile actions," he said.