Bar rejects “judging the judges” proposal
The Victorian Bar acted to defend the judicial officers of the State this week when the opposition announced a policy that, if implemented, would lead to the publication of statistics about the average sentence delivered per judicial officer for different offences, the number of sitting days per judicial officer, the delay per judgment per judicial officer, and other statistics supposedly aimed at measuring productivity and adherence to community standards in relation to sentencing.
The policy was not rejected outright by the State government.
The Bar’s media release rejecting the policy as ‘simplistic and apt to mislead’ led to media interviews on or in, among others, ABC TV news, the ABC Radio ‘PM’ program, The Age, Lawyers Weekly and Australasian Lawyer.
In the media release and interviews, I made the obvious points that justice can only truly be evaluated qualitatively, not quantitatively; that as every case is unique, it is meaningless to compare sentences without regard to the circumstances of the offence and the offender; and that productivity cannot be measured without having regard to matters such as, among others, the length of the trial, the number of parties and witnesses, the number of documents tendered, and the nature of the issues.
The Bar will always speak out, where it can, in defence of the independence of the judiciary and the maintenance of judicial discretion, and against unjust criticisms of the State’s hardworking judges and magistrates.
Last chance to express interest in Vic Bar Committees or Assistant Hon Sec to Bar Council
Expressions of Interest close on Monday for those who wish to:
These are great opportunities to contribute to the life of the Victorian Bar. More information and links in the notices below.
Protocol with the County Court concerning judicial conduct
The Chief Judge of the County Court, Peter Kidd, has developed, with input from the Bar, a protocol to enable members of the Bar to raise concerns about judicial conduct in the County Court with the Chief Judge, via the President. The protocol commits to writing a long-standing informal arrangement between the Chief Judge and the Victorian Bar. Its terms are very similar to those in the protocol developed by Chief Justice Ferguson in relation to judicial conduct in the Supreme Court.
I thank Chief Judge Kidd and the judges of the County Court for their constructive engagement with the Victorian Bar in relation to this important issue, and encourage all members to consult the protocol.
Jennifer Batrouney QC elected President of the ABA
My congratulations, on behalf of the whole Bar, to Jennifer Batrouney QC, who has been elected President of the Australian Bar Association for the 2018-19 year. Jennifer is no stranger to leadership roles in the legal profession. Among many other accomplishments, she is the immediate past President of the Victorian Bar, and a former President of the Tax Bar Association and of Australian Women Lawyers.
Michelle Sharpe named Barrister of the Year in 2018 Women in Law Awards
My congratulations also to Michelle Sharpe who won "Barrister of the Year" at the Women in Law Awards held last night. The event celebrated the women who have challenged, influenced or enhanced the practise of law in Australia. Read more about the evening here.
Written Advocacy workshop with Professor James Raymond
Professor James Raymond is one of the world’s best known exponents of the arts of written advocacy and judgment writing. Thanks to the Hon Peter Heerey AM QC, Professor Raymond will be in Melbourne to deliver a unique one day program on written advocacy skills to members of the Bar on 27 February 2019. The program will be interactive and of significant practical utility to barristers of all levels. Further details are available in the Upcoming CPD section of the website (you must be logged in).
Numbers are limited. I urge members to register their interest for this rare opportunity.
ABA Asylum Seeker and Refugee Policy
The Australian Bar Association has adopted a policy in relation to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. The policy contains eight principles for the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, including:
A similar policy has been adopted by the Law Council of Australia.
The Victorian Bar is an active constituent member of both the ABA and the LCA, which are the peak national representative bodies for, respectively, the independent referrals Bars of Australia and the legal profession.
A busy weekend
I spent Friday and Saturday at the ABA / NSW Bar national conference in Sydney. The conference was a great success with a very impressive program. Highlights for me included addresses by Commonwealth Attorney-General Christian Porter (who spoke about national security laws and family law reform) and Chief Justice Allsop (who spoke about the future of the independent bar), a Q&A hosted by Tony Jones (with panellists including Philip Ruddock, Professor George Williams and David Marr), and the now infamous gala dinner at which Malcolm Turnbull was the guest of honour while a journalist from Fairfax was eavesdropping on his remarks.
Behind the scenes I had the opportunity to speak with, among many others, Christian Porter, Mark Dreyfus, Malcolm Turnbull, Bathurst CJ, Allsop CJ and all of the presidents of the other independent bars of Australia and New Zealand.
My congratulations go to the hard-working organisers of this conference from both the ABA and the NSW Bar, including (among many others) ABA CEO Cindy Penrose and NSW Bar CEO Greg Tolhurst.
On Sunday, Vicbar CEO Katherine Lorenz and I represented our Bar at the ABA AGM and Bar Council meeting.
Welcome for Magistrate Kilias
Vice-President Simon Marks QC represented the Bar at the ceremonial welcome to Magistrate Costas Kilias on 14 November. My apologies for not posting Simon’s speech last week: it is available here