On Tuesday, the State government announced a $257.4 million funding boost to the Victorian justice system. $128.9 million will be deployed to appoint a new Supreme Court judge, two new County Court judges and 18 new magistrates. $37.3 million will go to Victoria Legal Aid over four years. $21.8 million has been allocated to the Office of Public Prosecutions. The remaining funds will be used for a range of other purposes, including the Victims Assistance program, the intermediary scheme that provides assistance to children and vulnerable people when providing evidence, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Court Services Victoria.
On behalf of the Victorian Bar, I welcomed the announcement of the additional funds. As I said in the Bar’s press release:
"Our courts and judiciary have been under increasing and unsustainable pressure. More magistrates, judges and prosecutors will allow cases to be heard more quickly… More police and prosecutors, and changes to bail and sentencing laws, make legal aid more important than ever. Our justice system works most efficiently when accused persons have access to high quality legal advice and representation."
The March 2018 readers’ course is rapidly drawing to a close, with final assessment moots having been held on Monday and Tuesday. Our readers’ course is an intensive one, and I have admired how our current readers have thrown themselves into the course over the past two months. I am looking forward to the signing ceremony and dinner, and to welcoming our newest colleagues, next Thursday.
The Reconciliation Working Group (RWG) has an ongoing role in monitoring the implementation of the Bar’s second Reconciliation Action Plan.
The RWG reports that in the first quarter of this year:
I had a busy week of Presidential duties. Apart from regular meetings, including Bar Council last night, I was an assessor for the Readers’ Course final moot assessments on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I enjoyed catching up with Professor Noah Messing of Yale Law School to discuss legal writing (and, of course, the Trump administration). Professor Messing is a world-renowned expert on legal writing. Among his many intimidating achievements, he is the author of The Law of Advocacy: Briefs, Motions and Writing Strategies of America’s Best Lawyers. His sessions on legal writing have become a highlight of our readers’ course. Yesterday, I met with the new Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd QC. Tonight, I will be a guest at the annual NSW Bench and Bar Dinner in Sydney.
This morning I attended a panel discussion hosted by Victorian Women Lawyers and chaired by Justice Chris Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal, in relation to VWL’s campaign for employers in the legal industry to conduct gender pay gap analyses.
Latest research suggests there is a 29.7% total remuneration gender pay gap for full time employees in the legal sector, compared with 15.3% for all employees nationally. Our recent State of the Bar report (slides 19–24), after taking into account differences in practice areas and work patterns, suggests that the pay gap is likely to be materially narrower for members of the Victorian Bar than for employee solicitors, although I would like to see (and propose to undertake) more comprehensive analysis than we have undertaken to date. Demographic trends should result in the residual gender pay gap at the Bar decreasing further, but there is no cause for complacency.
There was a terrific piece by Misa Han on progress towards gender equality at the Victorian Bar in the Australian Financial Review last Friday (subscription required).
A quick reminder for those who are too busy looking at their phones or chatting to look at the notices in the lifts: the profession will welcome Melinda Richards SC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria at a ceremonial sitting on Thursday 10 May at 9.15am. Justice Peter Vickery will be farewelled by the profession at 5pm on 8 May 2018; and Justice Mark Weinberg AO will be farewelled by the profession at 5pm on 9 May 2018. Each of the sittings will be held in the Banco Court.