Judge shortage and lawyer abuse major issues for judicial system

Two news items that may or may not be related.

NZH: Judge shortage pushing courts to crisis point, New Zealand Bar Association says

The law society and the New Zealand Bar Association are calling on the Government to increase the number of judges available to carry out district court business to address critical resourcing levels.

The organisations are speaking out after a column written by the Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue, in which she said there would be a redeployment in judicial resource from the criminal jurisdiction to the Family Court, to meet the backlog.

NZLS Criminal Law Committee convenor Steve Bonnar QC said the access to justice in the district court was under threat and moving resources from the family court to the criminal courts would only move the problem.

New Zealand Bar Association president Clive Elliott said resourcing had reached a critical point and immediate intervention by the Government was needed.

A serious backlog had arisen in the Family Court where there were about 8000 Care of Children Act cases waiting to be heard, he said.

“The situation in the Family Court is one example. It is clearly serious when the welfare of so many children is likely to be affected by these delays. The reality is that the only way the courts can manage is by pushing further delays on to litigants.”

Prior to the passing of the District Court Act 2016, although there was cap on the number of permanent judges who could be appointed, lawyers as well as retired judges could be appointed as acting judges.

The 2016 Act now restricts appointment of acting judges to those who are former judges of the District Court and are under 75 years old so there is a much smaller pool of people who can be appointed as acting judges.

In real terms, there has been a fall in the total number of judges. In 2017 the total number of all judges was 179. By the end of May 2018, this will have fallen to 167 judges. The new cap in the legislation is 160.

On top of that, the cases judges were dealing with had increased in complexity and seriousness in criminal cases and there had been a considerable rise in the number of without-notice applications and defended applications in the Family Court, Elliott said.

He said the strain on the judiciary had been considerable and the country could not afford to lose experienced judges.

Lawyers become judges, and that isn’t a happy camp either. a report says the profession is facing a ‘cultural crisis’.

Stuff: Widespread harassment, bullying and racism identified within the law profession

The legal profession in New Zealand is facing a “cultural crisis” after a survey uncovered wide-ranging and ongoing sexual harassment, racism and bullying.

Commissioned by the New Zealand Law Society, the survey follows allegations of sexual abuse and harassment aired by some female lawyers earlier this year.

The Law Society said 13,662 lawyers were invited to take part in the confidential survey managed by Colmar Brunton, with 3516 responding.

Out of that total, the survey found widespread harassment throughout the profession, with 33 per cent of female lawyers experiencing crude or offensive behaviour that made them feel offended.

The survey found most victims of harassment were employee lawyers in a law firm. According to the data, the harasser was most likely to be the target’s manager, supervisor, partner or director.

Women were more likely than men to be harassed by someone in a more senior position.

Six per cent of lawyers who had been sexually harassed described the harassment as an actual or attempted rape or assault.

The survey found the reported nature of sexual harassment varied.

While non-physical forms of sexual harassment were most common, two thirds of lawyers who had experienced sexual harassment said it included some form of unwanted physical contact.

Over half of all lawyers surveyed said they had suffered some form of bullying in their career, with 21 per cent of lawyers experiencing bullying in the last six months.

Just over half of those who described being subjected to sexual harassment said it had been a one-off occasion.

Both sexual harassment and bullying behaviours were more common among lawyers working in criminal law, the survey said.

Bullying was more common in family law.

New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck called the findings a “cultural crisis”.

“When nearly one third of female lawyers have been sexually harassed during their working life, when more than half of lawyers have been bullied at some time in their working life, when nearly 30 per cent of lawyers feel major changes are needed to the culture of their workplace, and when 40 per cent of lawyers under 30 believe major changes are needed to their workplace culture, we must call a spade a spade – there is a cultural crisis in the New Zealand legal profession,” she said.

Nearly one in five lawyers – 18 per cent of those surveyed – reported having been sexually harassed in a legal environment at some time in their working life.

The reported levels of abuse in the legal profession are alarming. An abusive environment will deter people from staying in the profession.

I don’t have anything to do with the legal profession, but I have had some experience in the legal/court system. This has been a long drawn out farce for three years and still waiting for a conclusion. While what I have been involved in may be abnormal it isn’t isolated, and has been blighted by lengthy court delays, only some of which can be blamed on a vexatious but incompetent lay litigator.

I have seen in a number of proceedings where judges have been very lenient dealing with repeated non-compliance with basic court rules and legislation, repeated abuses of process, associate harassment, and allowing an incompetent litigator to waste a lot of court time and resources. Judges have allowed themselves to be played by someone with a long record of legal and social media abuse.

Successive judges have ignored ongoing harassment while they have pandered to a malicious prick.

But this is probably only a small symptom in a court system under real pressure, and a legal profession that may well be forced to confront a crisis of abusive culture.



Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  31st May 2018

    On top of that, the cases judges were dealing with had increased in complexity and seriousness in criminal cases

    And the MInister of Justice wants to dump the 3 strikes law … 😐

    That needs to be looked at separately from sentencing and bail laws for minor offences and drug use convictions, and not rushed into.

  2. PDB

     /  31st May 2018

    PG: “The reported levels of abuse in the legal profession are alarming. An abusive environment will deter people from staying in the profession.”

    Hard to draw any conclusions unless we are shown what constituted ‘sexual harassment’ in the survey.

    From the report: “Nearly half of bullying cases involved women as a perpetrator.”

    • Gezza

       /  31st May 2018

      I got sexual invitations from a female boss but she was quite nice about it at least.

  3. Tony

     /  31st May 2018

    Trouble with the way this is presented is that one in five lawyers is an overstatement. There are 13,000 lawyers in the country. Only 25% responded to the survey – thats 3250. Of that number 18% claim to have been harassed – only 585 out of 13,000!
    I reckon this is a deliberate beatup and claiming 18% of all lawyers have been harassed is grossly misleading.

    • PDB

       /  31st May 2018

      Add in the fact the people that have been harassed are more likely to want to put their views across in a sexual harassment survey hence likely to be overstated.

    • lurcher1948

       /  31st May 2018

      In my world one female/male being sexually,physically abused at work is one too many and if you think otherwise you have issues in your life.

      • PDB

         /  31st May 2018

        Happens in every workplace I’d suggest to a small degree, especially as a ‘look’ could be considered harassment in some quarters – shut down the whole country you reckon?

        • Gezza

           /  31st May 2018

          A lot of blokes these days must have huge problems going up and asking a lady for a date. No wonder they’re all on tinder where the ladies and others not necessarily ladies can advertise.

          • lurcher1948

             /  31st May 2018

            Some get on grinder by mistake,could be a shock if looking for a female/male link up

            • Gezza

               /  31st May 2018

              I’ll bet. How did you find this out? 😳

              Simon & Mr Husdon are gonna have to cope without us there today. 😎

  4. PartisanZ

     /  31st May 2018

    Non-adaptive systems tend to crash eventually … It’s simple really …

    Westminster is going the same way.

    • Gezza

       /  31st May 2018

      How long do you give Westminster?

      • PartisanZ

         /  31st May 2018

        Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, hopefully we’ll be ‘predator free’ by 2040 …

        Politipredator free! (new word #158)

        And our bi-national &/or bicultural & multicultural, ‘consociational’ Constitutional Democracy will lead the world in socio-political advancement …

        • Gezza

           /  31st May 2018


          • PartisanZ

             /  31st May 2018

            I can think of a few who would love that! Indeed, I can probably name most of them individually … 5 of them have got letters in today’s Northland Age … (or did have on Tuesday, I should really check on that. Might be 6 or 8 of them today!)

            I’d say ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ is top of the list at present …

            Another interesting ‘referendum comp’ popularity contest perhaps?

            Rename the country?

            • Gezza

               /  31st May 2018

              What I don’t like about Aotearoa New Zealand PZ is:

              1. It’s too long
              2. Not all Maori iwi called it Aotearoa
              3. I couldn’t stand to hear it called Ayohteearoeah, which it will be by many English speakers (not Pasifica or latin speakers like Italians, Spanish, or ze French.

              What I like about Kiwiland is
              1. It’s short.
              2. It’s most unlikely to be mispronounced
              3. It’s one Maori word and one English word, same number of letters, combined.

              Please help me up the vote for Kiwiland.

            • PartisanZ

               /  31st May 2018

              People can learn to pronounce things properly …

              Regrettably Gezza, whatever your intentions, you are taking the ‘Right Brigade’ course …. Anything, but ANYTHING, except acknowledging the ‘bi’ in biculturalism … Let’s forsake both our Maori and British colonial history … “All is forgiven” … “We’re all one people now” …. We’re all Kiwis

              … Why not Kiwianaland? Miraka-Dairyland? Rakau-Radiataland?

              Kiwi is a derivative form of the old ‘assimilation’ paradigm … and in that paradigm we basically all become pakeha …

              Are there any precedents in the world? A country named after an indigenous flightless bird? I can’t think of one? The Kiwi might make an excellent symbol for the nation, like on a flag or something?

              Iceland perhaps? Except that’s not its name in Icelandic …

              Check it out – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_Iceland

              Eylenda, fem.—island, that is to say Iceland[citation needed]
              Stephan G. Stephansson
              Fjarst í eilífðar útsæ
              vakir eylendan þín.
              Far in the eternal yonder sea
              your island wakes.[citation needed]
              Fjalladrottning, fem.—queen of the mountain or Iceland[citation needed]
              Fjallkonan, fem. with definite article—lady of the mountain, a figure representing Iceland[citation needed]
              Frón, neu.— old Norse word for land, Iceland[citation needed]
              Heima á Fróni.
              Garðarshólmi, masc.—Iceland, named after Gardar Svavarsson[citation needed]
              Hrímey, fem.[citation needed]
              Hrímgrund, fem.[citation needed]
              Hrímland, neu.—(the book Crymogaea occasionally uses “Hrímland”)[citation needed]
              Ísafold, neu.
              Ísaland, neu.[citation needed]
              …og flykkjast heim að fögru landi Ísa.
              Ísland – Iceland’s official and most common name
              Jökulmær, fem.—Young woman of the glacier, Iceland[citation needed]
              Klakinn, masc—literally the iceberg or the ice cover[citation needed]
              Norðurey, fem.— literally meaning “northern island”, used in jest in the Westman Islands since Iceland is north of them[citation needed]
              Skerið, neu-literally the skerry[citation needed]
              Snjóland, neu.—Snowland[citation needed]
              Snæland, neu.—the name that the Viking Naddoddr reputedly gave to Iceland in the 9th century meaning “snow land”[citation needed]
              Thule, neu.—some scholars claim Iceland was the land of Thule[1]
              Týli, neu.—Thule[citation needed]
              Þyli, neu.—Thule[citation needed]
              Icelanders also have several nicknames for themselves, including Frónbúi or Frónverji (“an inhabitant of Frón”) and Landi (“fellow countryman”)

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