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Elizabeth Street
29 May, 2008  
Personality disorders on the bench

Lizzy Street, our Sydney law firm blogger, appears before a beastly judge. Where’s the sisterhood when you need it?


imageIt must be a rotten, lonely life for those who sit in judgment.

Not being able to to hang out at the pub and chat about your cases, all the grovelling filled with veiled contempt, the unadorned tedium of hacking away through endless lists.

Can this explain why some judges, and even judicial registrars, feel the need to take out their unpleasant lives on us hapless sods and sodettes who appear before them?

I don’t want to overstate things. I’ve come across some lovely judges and even met a few outside the courtroom. But it’s the shockers who are so memorable; those who take pleasure in making a junior solicitor squirm in her fabulous suit.

One particular female member of the bench in Sydney takes huge delight in striking fear into the hearts of all who appear before her, particularly women.

A colleague at a previous firm used to suffer mini-panic attacks before appearing before this judicial officer, and I now see why.

There’s no sisterly love here, because it’s the women lawyers who are on the receiving end of the most scathing attacks.

In a fine display of gallantry my male opponents in her court have regularly attempted to shield me from the onslaught.

I marvel at how the nastiest of legal battles can result in a truce, simply for the purpose of surviving a directions hearing.

Why she is so steeped in unpleasantness. Was she always like this? Does it spring from a private sadness or sadism?

Maybe elevation brings on a strange personality change in some insecure souls?

No matter, the effect is the same.

Unfortunately for me, being a junior solicitor means multiple appearances before Madam Lash.

Any senior associate who has not complied with a timetable will quickly palm the appearance off to a poor junior.

A recent appearance went something like this:

Madam Lash: I note that the defendant wishes to file some cross-claims. Who will these be against?

Me: We received our instructions last week and have been investigating the matter. We don’t know at this stage precisely who we expect to cross-claim against, however the nature of the dispute means there are several parties we may seek to join.

Madam: That’s not good enough. You clearly have not sufficiently prepared the matter. The defendant is not to issue any cross-claims. Why does the defendant need four weeks to serve their expert evidence?

Me: We were advised by our expert that they would require six weeks to complete their report as they have to attend a view of the scene. We want to ensure that we can comply with the timetable.

Madam: They should be able to do it in two weeks. Who wrote this timetable?

Plaintiff’s solicitor: I did.

Madam: Please do not, in future, provide me with such ridiculous orders! Have you read the Practice Note?

Plaintiff’s solicitor: Yes.

Madam: Well you clearly have no understanding of the law. I suggest you go and read the Practice Note and the UCPR before appearing before me again. Are you the solicitor with carriage of the matter?

Plaintiff’s solicitor: No, he is overseas at the moment.

Madam: I’m standing the matter down in the list for you to contact him and get some proper instructions.

Nasty stuff.

I’d better fly. I have an appearance before the Lash in an hour and we haven’t complied with the timetable. A stiff midday G & T might help me over the line.

 
 

Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: May 29, 2008, 12:58 am

Ask former co workers about the particular person's work habits,you will very amused but not surprised.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 1, 2008, 8:34 pm

All of us in the profession know this woman. In any dispute litigated within her jurisdiction, she is the strongest factor favouring settlement - before the first directions hearing.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 1, 2008, 8:34 pm

Well said. Her most obnoxious habit, of many, is picking on those most ill-equipped to deal with her attacks. I remember once seeing her rip two young female solicitors in a row to shreds in front of a crowded courtroom for no good reason. Both were unnecessarily and publicly humiliated to the extent that it seemed to me that neither would ever wish to walk into a courtroom again. She is a bully and, like most bullies, a coward.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 1, 2008, 8:34 pm

This is the way Madam Lash deals with junior solicitors in her court.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 1, 2008, 8:35 pm

This isn't a certain NSW appeal judge is it?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 1, 2008, 11:21 pm

It sounds more like a certain Supreme Court judge from the Equity Division.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 1:32 am

Whinge whinge...she asks those questions every time you seek those orders. If you want orders to cross claim the least you can do is know who it will be against
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 1:33 am

'I order any party not ready to take a hearing date on the next occasion to send to me and to serve, at least five days before, a statement setting out in detail the reasons why the matter is not ready."
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 1:33 am

Must say - she has made me cry on one occassion (I made it out of the court room first though). And you're right - every single female solicitor under the age of 30 - 35 knows exactly who you mean, and has felt the verbal claws and teeth mercilessly rip into them in some sadistic kind of glee for their mere appearance in the court room. Some of us have experienced a second drumming on returning to the office with our tail between our legs to cop a serve from the senior associate who made us go up there. I'm one solicitor who promises to maintain solidarity with you in the face of the discriminatory, malicious and unfair behaviour of this particular person.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 1:33 am

If you haven't appeared before madam lash, then you aren't a real lawyer, I say.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 3:00 am

The guys cop it too, I reckon she just needs a good root
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 4:49 am

I don't know about the latter but it's certainly true that us male juniors are in the firing line as well. Some of the pearlers I've received are below, all following instructions from senior associates and partners "I can't believe anyone would submit that." "Why are you mentioning the appearance of the defendant? The rules state that both parties are to attend the Status Conference" (Tell that to the defendant - I'm here!) She once told me off a a Status Conference when I was expecting a hearing date. The other side informed us at the Court that they weren't ready but they did not have and short minutes. We drafted some outside on the only writing pad we had between but I received a lecture because they were not on A4 paper.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 4:49 am

I am going to be the lonely (male) voice and put in a good word for Madam Lash. I actually enjoy appearing before her. I may not always get what I want, but I cannot criticise her for not being on top of a file or not moving things along.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 8:28 pm

How do these dreadful people get onto the bench if their reputations are well known (see above) before appointment? They can't ALL be servants of the Labor Party or have photos of the Attorney with a cat, surely? Those lesser judicial officers - often Magistrates - appointed for reasons unrelated to merit sometimes behave badly because they are aware they are not up to the task and that we all know it but a Judge of the Court of Appeal? Sounds like a Narcissistic Personality Disorder to me and why wasn't that considered BEFORE appointment, when it is too late?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 8:28 pm

Getting people what they might want, being on top of files or moving them along are one thing; being needlessly vicious is quite another. It is the latter behaviour-- and particularly the fact that it is often irrational and uncalled for-- that is being criticised here. And rightly so. Eventually she will come a cropper and it will not reflect well on those who turned a blind eye to it for so long.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 10:12 pm

I agree with Mr "June 2, 2008 @ 8:49 am". She does a good job, from what I've seen in my many appearances down there. Let's face it, "the dog ate my homework" just doesn't wash there. If you're prepared (or at least reasonable) and don't waste the Court's and/or your opponent's/opponents' time, you have nothing to fear. If some senior person at your firm has potentially put you in the firing line, point them to the practice note and get their coat for them.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 2, 2008, 10:12 pm

There is certainly no Practice Note which dictates that one has to be vicious to move files along. The best way to deal with this person is to "switch off" when appearing before her. I do pity her because she must be insecure & unhappy if she feels the need to bully almost everyone who walks into her lair...ummmm...I mean Courtroom...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 3, 2008, 2:33 am

As a senior male lawyer (who does his own appearance work) I find her approach vile and unneccesary. I expect to weather a storm before any judicial officer if you/your client have/has been particularily delinquent, but there are calmer ways to achieve the same result. Ultimately, she makes the orders that she wants to make anyway, so she may as well drop the harda** routine. I have worked for litigation partners and clients that would have her for breakfast.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 3, 2008, 2:34 am

Presuming I am referring to the correct individual, I once recieved a direction from her to deal with costs on the next occasion, and that any interested party to the costs argument was to put on an affidavit at least 5 days before the next directions hearing. I duly prepared a detailed affidavit, filed and served it, and turned up on the next occasion ready to seek a costs order. No other party had filed or served anything and I (hopefully) thought I might be successful in my quest... Imagine my shock when, upon making the application as directed, I was told "I don't have time to deal with this" and the next matter was called. Explain that one to the client...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 3, 2008, 2:34 am

I gat annoyed when she asks what doctors and experts I will be using AND she asks for the NAME of the expert or doctor. Telling her in the presence of the other side is a gamble if the reports are not served because it opens you up for a Jones v Dunkell scenario. Does she actually need to know who we are sending clients to?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 5, 2008, 4:20 am

Next time you should brief B. T.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 5, 2008, 4:22 am

Since this particular person loves quoting practice rules, maybe that person should read the Statement of Ethics. In particular the section about conduct and behaviour in the profession Proclaimed by the Council of the Law Society of New South Wales 11 December 2003 The true profession of law is based on an ideal of honourable service*. We acknowledge the role of our profession in serving our community in the administration of justice. We recognize that the law should protect the rights and freedoms of members of society. We understand that we are responsible to our community to observe high standards of conduct and behaviour when we perform our duties to the courts, our clients and our fellow practitioners. Our conduct and behaviour should reflect the character we aspire to have as a profession. This means that as individuals engaged in the profession and as a profession: * We primarily serve the interests of justice. * We act competently and diligently in the service of our clients. * We advance our clients' interests above our own. * We act confidentially and in the protection of all client information. * We act together for the mutual benefit of our profession. * We avoid any conflict of interest and duties * We observe strictly our duty to the Court of which we are officers to ensure the proper and efficient administration of justice
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 5, 2008, 4:23 am

Dear Lizzy, I empathise although I am by no means a junior solicitor but I am a female. I had reason to raise the behaviour of this particular JR with the Law Soc because of her insistence in setting 2 matters down for hearing on dates when my counsel was not available even though the Court would have been incovnenienced by only 3 days in one case and 14 days in another in choosing a date suitable to my client and counsel. The other parties had not briefed and had no preference in either case. One of the listings caused so much distress becuase I had to engage new Counsel in a very difficult 3 defendant matter that I nearly went mad. Her comment: " The Court is not here for the convenience of Counsel." But what about the hapless impecunious plaintiff who would prefer the horse he was on rather than another unknown hack ? Anonymous
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 5, 2008, 4:23 am

Oh dear lord did I have a massive laugh reading the comments of others who have been mauled by good 'ol Madam Lash....I think Madam Horrible is more appropriate for her!! But, she is darn good at her job and evidently knows everything she needs to know back to bloody front - you can't wing it through a directions hearing every time and expect to escape her wrath unscathed (that is if you haven't complied with the timetable - crikey we have more than one file running and sometimes forget things - we are only human)!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 6, 2008, 3:22 am

I think she does a good job. Doesn't anyone remember the acting Judge who did the "show causes" and other directions hearings before her? He was fearsome. He was always striking things out and ordering draconian costs orders. How many appeals and Pro Neg cases came out of that. The JR is a pussy cat in comparison. The worst you get, really, is a spot of sarcasm and a costs order for the day.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 10, 2008, 6:23 pm

Oh dear. No wonder 'ordinary' people don't like lawyers. Bunch of etiquette-bound cowering whimps!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 11, 2008, 2:40 am

I just hope that someone has pointed this article out to her. She has a difficult job and probably has her own pressures from those above her to move matters along and list them for hearing BUT she should realise that her behaviour is akin to bullying. Yes, it must be annoying having junior solicitors and clerks turn up in front of her with no idea of the file but she shouldn't take it out on them. I would be more than happy that, if she is displeased with some hapless junior who has been sent down with terrible instructions and has no idea of the matter, that she make a direction that on the next occasion the Partner with carriage of the file should appear before her!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 12, 2008, 10:11 am

My word, reading this was a trip down memory lane... a dark, frightening memory lane with torture implements and things like that hanging out of trees, and howling wolves and banshees... She tried to make my life a living hell when I was first admitted, and I am glad I now live in Perth and so there is an entire continent between us. I'd like to think I got through relatively unscathed, or at least, my counselling bills have been minimal. I've also realised that she destroyed all fear within me - I just cannot feel nervous about presenting anything to anyone anymore, because compared to her, any audience is easy.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 12, 2008, 10:11 am

As a female clerk attending in this court room, going up against a female barrister was the best way to get reprieve - it seems Madame Lash treats them more harshly still! The good thing about it at least is that it gives the juniors something to bond over in the elevator on the way back down.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 15, 2008, 9:56 pm

Court 13B - hell house!! no further comment
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 20, 2008, 5:24 am

Hmmm... Seems to me the posters are not unanimous in their conclusions as to precisiely who "Madame Lash" is. There would appear to be 2 candidates. One of those candidates is ruled out - as Lizzy appears to be referring to a judge. Perhaps Lizzy can confirm if Madame Lash's courtroom is to be found north or south of King Street???? The answer (either way) will clarify Madame Lash's idenity without a shadow of a doubt. That said, the candidate North of King Street is quite fine if you are well prepared and have it together. The candidate south, well......
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 26, 2008, 10:04 pm

If you have been lashed by the Madam you would have no doubt as to her identity (and her southern origins).
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 27, 2008, 2:59 am

Seems I'm probably more senior to most that have commented. Years ago matters never progressed in this court's lists, they hung around for years. This lady gets the job done. Her style may offend some of our faint hearted. Anonymous 6 June 7.22am is on the money if you want to know what fearsome meant.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 16, 2008, 5:54 pm

I once had to ask Madame Lash to recuse herself from a matter. I now practice in another state...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 4, 2008, 7:51 am

I used to be an Acting Judge (I don't think I am the one mentioned in dispatches above) so I know what it is like to have a long list with appearances by the uninformed. While I think it is possible to receive flak from this person because the previous matter was in a state of disarray, nonetheless with this person if you have done your homework or had the courtesy to advise of the omission by Affidavit as is required it is usually fairly painless AND the list is running well.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 16, 2008, 3:21 am

To 4/9/08, although I understand the efficiency that she's well known for, what gives her the right to bully people (especially women)when she knows they are not in a position to answer back in the same manner? There are better ways to handle late matters, non compliance with timetables etc that can bring forth the same result. I loathe bullies!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 1, 2008, 1:59 am

It is not the substance, rather the form that is in question here. You can get exactly the same results without the callousness that is sometimes dished out. Just the evil look that is displayed as she enters the court is ridiculous. Would it really effect the efficiency of the list adversely to give a smile when she first enters? Maybe even a good morning/good afternoon? However, the inconsistent orders at times do quite baffle me. Can't help but wonder if it has something to do with the particular people appearing at the time.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 8, 2008, 8:07 am

There is no doubt for those who know who this Judicial Officer is - no where near King Street. I have always found her very intimidating and sometimes unecessarily rude to people appearing before her, but some people are so poorly instructed and have no idea what they are talking about. It must get frustrating to have to deal with that day in day out. That may explain the attitude. Can you imagine how tedious her job must be, listening to people's excuses all day long...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 10, 2008, 9:34 pm

If she isn't cut out for the job then maybe she should go back to private practice where she came from. Although I'm lead to believe her foray in the real legal world was rather unsuccessful.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: February 26, 2009, 6:50 pm

Mme Lash sounds very similar to a certain ex-Senior Member of the AAT, nicknamed Dragon Lady, who delighted in belittling legal reps but who could take up to 2 years to hand down a relatively simple decision!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 31, 2009, 12:14 am

I am a client who went to court to observe a directions hearing. Madam Lash was not that impressive. Behind all that hot air, she was letting the Plaintiff's solicitor get away with rubbish. Would love to see her in business, where she can't hide behind the bench that stops people telling her to pull her head in. She wouldn't last 2 mins in the business world.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: November 26, 2009, 7:45 pm

She smiles at the male advocates and accommodates all their submissions even when unreasonable and outright outrageous. But lets her personal dislike of female advocates strongly influence, indeed dictate, her decisions in matters and the way she treats them in court. Petty points she would not take with the opponent, she makes with vitriol towards the one she dislikes.