New District Court judges increase number and diversity

Twenty one new District Court judges have been appointed, which will increase the total from 155 to 172 (some are retiring but 10 positions are new). This sounds like a lot of judges, but the courts are under a lot of pressure, with delays in proceedings common. Increasing ethnic and gender diversity is a given these days.

RNZ: Diverse intake of 21 new District Court judges

Another 21 new District Court judges have been appointed in a move the government says is to improve access to justice and boost diversity in New Zealand’s courts.

The appointments include 11 judges filling the positions of judges who have retired from the District Courts but 10 positions are new, as provided for in last year’s Budget.

The appointees include 10 new Māori judges, eight Pākehā, one Māori/Chinese and two Samoan. Twelve of them are women.

Attorney-General David Parker said there was an increasing workload for District Court judges.

“It’s partly because of population increase, partly because the trials are more complex than they used to be and partly because we’re trying to take an approach to therapeutic courts where we’re trying to deal with the underlying drug and addiction issues of some of the offenders so they don’t reoffend.”

The names of 14 of the new judges were released today, with the rest to be announced later this year.

If the gender and ethnicity are known then all the appointees must be decided on. I don’t know why seven names won’t be announced until later in the year.

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.

 

 

Fraught family issues and intimidating judges

Relationship breakups and family arrangements can be fraught with problems. Fathers in particular can be put in difficult positions, often feeling helpless in the legal system, with preference often given to mothers.

Some estranged fathers have been taking their frustrations too far.

NZH: Police protect judges at home from ‘intimidating’ Family Court protesters

Judges are being protected at their family homes by police as angry dads protest outside with placards and megaphones.

A group of fathers, many of whom are disgruntled at losing custody or visitation rights to their children, are gathering outside the homes of Family Court judges in Auckland, say multiple Herald sources.

It is understood the protests, which have largely taken place during weekends over the past few weeks, against about three judges have so far been peaceful with no reports of trespassing or property damage.

So they don’t seem to be breaking the law, but they are unlikely to sway judges with their protests.

Minister of Justice and Courts Andrew Little called the protests “very disturbing” and said there was no excuse for people taking their case to the front door of a judge.

“The reason for that sort of protest is to create some level of intimidation and that is entirely unacceptable.”

It does seem a bit disturbing, but fathers can get desperate in their attempts to maintain contact with their children. This is understandable – and far better than walking away from their parental responsibilities.

And they have succeeded in highlighting a problem faced by many fathers.

Perhaps having the law and the Courts stacked against them is also entirely unacceptable, and drawing attention to this is a valid if perhaps misguided reaction.

A third review into the Family Court had also been ordered by the Government, Little said.

A review panel and expert advisory group would talk to families who had been through the Family Court process, he said, while he had also asked specifically for a “human rights approach” to look at the views of both parents and the children.

More details of the review were expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Changes to the Family Court were introduced by the former National Government in March 2014, aimed at empowering families to resolve their matters outside court and without lawyers.

The reforms were also intended to help the Family Court focus on those cases which required immediate legal attention, such as those involving family violence.

Little said the review would evaluate whether the reforms had achieved their objectives.

In last month’s Ministry of Justice newsletter, Little also wrote: “Public confidence in the criminal system and family law has been eroded and a managerial approach has failed. We can do better, and we will do better.”

Swadling said there were “significant problems” introduced in 2014 when legal aid was removed and lawyers became unable to represent parties for some court processes.

“If protestors wish to be heard they would be best served by ensuring that they make submissions to the review panel rather than targeting particular individuals, especially judges who are unable, by convention, to defend themselves,” she said.

It is never easy sorting out relationship and family disputes, and it is a real shame that children get caught in the middle of parental legal battles.

While the care of the children should be paramount, both parents should be given a fair go by the legal system. This seems to be one thing where the system is often stacked against men.

Trotter’s conspiracies – is something amiss with Chris?

Early this week Chris Trotter posted on his Bowalley blog suggesting that due to the agreement made on the Trans Pacific Partnership a “second great wave of colonisation” would wash over New Zealand.

See Trotter on TPPA and “the storm of change that is coming”

He has followed that up yesterday with a post laden with conspiracies.

Securing “Buy-In” For The TPP: The Deep State Takes Over.

IT IS NOW CLEAR that Helen Clark’s Trans-Pacific Partnership advocacy in New York was just the beginning. The opening move in a chess game that will end with the Labour Party knocking over its King and returning to the bi-partisan fold on the issue of Free Trade. To achieve this turnaround will require the mobilisation of all of the non-elected elements of the New Zealand political system.

This is despite the mobilisation of the Trotterite conspiracists.

Applying the maximum of public pressure to Labour will be the responsibility of the news media and the numerous business lobby groups.

Poor Labour. No wonder they are having credibility problems, everyone is against them, even Helen Clark (who is now working for the United Nations to keep Labour out of power).

Behind the scenes, however, Labour MPs will find themselves on the receiving end of one-on-one briefings from old friends and colleagues (senior civil servants, leading academics) “deeply concerned” that Labour has positioned itself in the wrong place, on the wrong issue.

The Civil Service and all the Universities are against them too.

These “old friends” of the Labour Party will warn Caucus members that their failure to support the TPP will only end up driving Labour further and further to the Left. Just as they were beginning to make up much-needed ground, the party will spurn Middle New Zealand for the tin-foil-hat-wearing brigade. Not only will this render Labour unelectable, but it will also serve as an invitation for the news media to start casting about for a Caucus member who’s prepared to act in a more responsible fashion.

I’m not sure what Trotter means by that.

That such individuals exist within Labour’s caucus is indisputable. That money and resources will, very swiftly, begin flowing in the direction of these TPP supporters is equally certain.

That Trotter has not provided any evidence to support this claim is certain.

Even further behind the scenes, a mounting surveillance effort will engage the resources of both the SIS and the GCSB. Relying on the legal clauses that empower these agencies to protect the “economic well-being” of New Zealand, leading figures in the Anti-TPP movement will have their communications intercepted and their movements tracked. Opposition strategies, being known, are more easily countered. Any material likely to prove embarrassing, or, even better, discrediting, will find its way to sympathetic bloggers and/or journalists.

The SIS and the GCSB are also set up to defeat Labour. I’m waiting for them to feed me material so I can question the mental condition of Labour supporters who warn us of the web of conspiracies.

Why will the key elements of the Deep State: the upper echelons of the news media; senior civil servants and academics; judges; the Intelligence Community; act in this way? Why is the restoration of bi-partisanship on the Free Trade issue so vital? The answer is brutally simple.

The judges are all in on it too.

Were Labour’s opposition to the TPP allowed to stand, an opportunity would open up for voters to elect a government committed to its rejection.

If only all these people weren’t conspiring against Labour the people would see what a truly wondrous party it was and vote for them.

The election of such a government would not only put at risk all the secret material pertaining to the negotiation of the TPP, but it would also force into the open all of the deeply undemocratic assumptions underpinning the deal. Such exposure would seriously compromise the reputations of the politicians and civil servants involved in negotiating the TPP. Even more seriously, it would expose the true intentions of New Zealand’s “friends” and “allies”. It is the duty of the Deep State to make sure that such potentially catastrophic political revelations never happen.

One could wonder whether Trotter was in a deep state of something.

If everything and everyone wasn’t against them Trotter’s dream of a political revolution would surely happen.

With Labour and National – the two parties indispensable to the formation of stable government in New Zealand – both singing from the same TPP song-sheet, that fraction of the New Zealand electorate opposed to the TPP will find itself reduced to voting for a party (or parties) too small to successfully negotiate their country’s exit from the TPP.

That seems strangely out of synch with the rest of Trotter’s desperate dialogue. Is it sarcasm or confusion?

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger: The Deep State doesn’t see why it should stand by and watch New Zealand’s membership of the TPP put at risk because of the irresponsibility of its own people.

The people of New Zealand are so irresponsible not taking the true Labour and Trotter seriously and rising in revolt.

Is Trotter writing some very clever satire? Or is he seriously nuts?