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5 August, 2008  
Goings on ...

Callinan’s Japanese love scene mystery solved … Prof. George Williams covers all lamentable appointment oversights … Smoking airplane crashed into billable moments … Adrian Powles RIP … Defo in Van Diemen’s Land … The centre of the advocates immunity has just shifted … Nietzsche’s man at AG’s department

imageBob Stitt QC cleared up a lingering mystery at the NSW bar’s readers and tutors dinner (July 25) at the Establishment Ballroom in George Street.

He mentioned that in Ian Callinan’s novel After the Monsoon there is a description of a steamy sex scene in which someone is described as making love “Japanese style”.

When Murray Gleeson gingerly inquired of Callinan just what was involved in making love “Japanese style”, the great author replied:

“I have no idea. I just made it up.”

* * *

Prof. George Williams’ quill has been scratching frantically in the wake of Robert French’s appointment as the next CJ on High.

His comments were published in a multiplicity of organs.

imageTo the readers of the Hobart Mercury he lamented that it is to “the detriment of Tasmania” that its legal talent “is not being recognised”.

George (pic) was reported as saying that without Tasmanian representation it meant the High Court lacked a local perspective when considering matters like the Franklin dams case.

A day earlier in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail he observed that it was “very poor” that no South Australian had ever been selected.

After all, the High Court decided things that had a “major impact on the long term future of South Australia”.

This history of rejection partly arose from “fears that judges from South Australia will favour the states over the Commonwealth”.

God knows what he told the readers of the Northern Territory News.

Still, when you’re a national commentator, you’ve got to cover all bases.

I particularly enjoyed George’s remarks to The Australian:

“French has progressive views, but he is a legal traditionalist in terms of how he goes about deciding cases… I doubt he is going to be a really progressive, creative judge because he would see quite strict limits on what a High Court judge should do – and that would be different to other people who might have been appointed.”

I’m dying to know these progressive, creative, non-traditionalists, with no strict limits, who “might have been appointed”.

* * *

I promised the source there’d be no names, no pack drill for this morsel because, in the finest edgy tradition of big law firms, they are terrified of appearing ridiculous.

Two weeks ago a managing partner of a large scale national law shop was ensconced in his Sydney CBD corner office.

All around him lawyers merrily clocked up their billable units while below the city sparkled like a chunk of junk jewellery.

Yet he had an uneasy feeling about a low flying passenger plane he sighted through his panoramic window.

It was accompanied by a couple of smaller aircraft and smoke was pouring out the back of the larger flying machine. Worse still, all of them seemed to be heading straight towards his window.

He called his secretary to order the immediate evacuation of the tower.

Stilettos and court shoes alike trampled down the fire escape, with secretaries racing partners to the bottom of the 30-odd floors.

By the time the fire engines arrived the word was out: False Alarm.

Oh dear. It was just another plane making a ceremonial fly past before being put away in the hanger for good.

The building manager had been warned about this display flight, but had neglected to pass the information on.

And all those wasted billable minutes.

* * *

There’s nothing quite like the spirit of giving when Xmas rolls around.

In the wake of allegations about Keddies’ charging like a wounded bull comes a missive from a field agent in Tamworth.

Local shop The Law Company actually sent out a bill that included this innovative item: “client development – wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts to clients.”

* * *

imageTalking of Keddies, it’s gratifying to see that the July edition of the NSW Law Society Journal gave Scott Roulstone (pic) a few free kicks in the fetchingly titled “media mentions” column.

Scotty is a partner of Keddies as well as junior vice of the society.

He talked about the 50 or so personal injury cases arising from the maltreatment and molestations dished out by Dr Graeme Reeves, who was employed at the Bega and Pambula hospitals in 2003 and 2004.

Scotty gave his reflections on the case and some insights into the Keddie technique:

“These are very deserving women… The cases might last 12 months to two years. We’re going to try to keep it minimal.”

And Scotty’s tips for handling the media:

“I answer all questions very openly. They want background on cases, and I did trust them for that. But we can only give them certain things – the general details of some botched surgery, although some may have involved sexual assault.”

Sadly, no advice on billing techniques.

* * *

Even the death notice of July 24 got his name wrong.

POWELS, Ronald Adrian
July 20, 2008
Late of Bateau Bay …

imageIt was the last in a long line of things that had gone awry for Adrian Powles (pic), the former Allens’ managing partner sent to the nick for helping himself to clients’ money.

He also nearly brought Allens to its knees when as London partner of the firm in the early 1990s he plunged more than $20 million from the Nauru Phosphate Trust into a weird trade of standby letters of credit and prime bank notes.

The money vanished and the Law Society toyed with putting in the receivers.

Now he’s gone. Adrian Powles, charmer, drinker, gambler, mover & shaker.

* * *

The defo business in Van Diemen’s Land is about to receive a badly needed shot of vitamins.

Hobart lawyer and former prez of the Australian Bar ‘n’ Grill, Stephen Estcourt QC, has commenced proceedings against The Mercury over its reports about a police investigation into allegations of government appointments-for-favours.

See Theodora passim.

The Financial Review reported on July 18 that the story centred on an alleged approach to Estcourt from an unnamed former Labor government person.

The suggested arrangement was that Estcourt would be appointed solicitor general if he waived the legal fees he was owed by the former deputy premier Bryan Green.

Estcourt’s lawyer, Peter Barker, said the allegation is false. Anyway, Leigh Sealy was appointed solicitor general.

Estcourt represented Green, who was charged with conspiracy, after he gave a lucrative government contract to another ex-minister, John White, as the monopoly provider of accreditation services for Tasmania’s builders.

The conspiracy charge was dropped in October last year, while another charge of interfering with an executive officer resulted in a hung jury.

On July 7 The Mercury incorrectly reported that Estcourt had “declined” to be interviewed by police.

The next day the paper corrected itself saying that the prominent silk had not declined to be interviewed and that he would be providing police with a statement.

The defo action is against the paper’s publisher Davies Bros, the editor Garry Bailey, and reporter Sue Neales.

As if that’s not exciting enough, Nigel Burch, a former backroom man for the ex-deputy premier Steve Kons, is suing the government’s number one man in the upper house, Doug Parkinson.

Parko said beastly things about Burch, like he was conspiring to attack the government.

Burch famously pieced together a shredded document that was instrumental in revealing that his former boss had lied to parliament.

The backroom boy had been sacked for sending a letter to the Burst Sav critical of the way the government ignored proper processes when making appointments.

For a small place VDL manages to generate more than it’s fair share of stinky stuff.

* * *

The Anthony Porthouse barrister’s insurance decision from on high last Wednesday (July 30) reminds me that I should have mentioned earlier another unfortunate advocates’ liability drama.

The NSW appeal court has refused leave sought by barrister Trevor Hall and solicitor Peter La Fontaine to overturn a decision of Dizzo judge John Nicholson.

We reported in November Nicholson’s decision not to strike out a statement of claim for professional negligence against Hall and La Fontaine, despite the urgings of Guy Reynolds that the case is “smack in the middle of the barristers’ immunity as articulated by the High Court”.

The two lawyers were sued by Raymond Fowler, a Port Macquarie man, who claimed that they stuffed up proceedings he had taken against the purchaser of his Old Butter Factory at Telegraph Point.

One of the problems was a failure to produce evidence about business losses. Colin Fegan DCJ described the progress of the case as, “seriously deficient … continuing failure … [and] dilatory”.

The lawyers failed to comply with an instruction from the client to pay the costs thrown away for the four days dealing with the poor state of the plaintiff’s case.

Fowler abandoned the action and instead proceeded against Hall and La Fontaine for prof. neg.

Paul Glissan, for Fowler, resisted the strike out saying there were triable issues.

The High Court in D’Orta-Ekenaike said that the rationale of the advocates’ immunity was to achieve finality in the “quelling of disputes”.

Nicholson distinguished the Fowler case, because here no quelling had taken place – the dispute had not been resolved before it was abandoned.

The Court of Appeal heard Hall and La Fontaine’s leave applications and refused them with costs. It didn’t even call on counsel for Fowler to make a submission.

Maybe smack-bang middle of the immunity has quietly shifted.

* * *

imageRoger Wilkins, the bow tied and moustachioed former supremo of the NSW Cabinet Office and Department of the Yarts, has resurfaced in Canberra.

He’s to replace Rob Cornall (pic) as secretary of the Attorney General’s Department in Canberra on September 1 – the same day that Robert French is sworn in as the new CJ.

Wilkins left the NSW government in 2006 and wound up at Citigroup as head of the government and public sector group. He’s married to the Sydney spin merchant Sue Cato.

Rob Cornall has run AGs for nearly eight years. Previously he was CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria and after that VicAG Jan Wade catapulted him into running Legal Aid, which was a slash and burn operation.

Rob was a bit of the conservative side but a very professional operator. PM Krudd says that Cornall will be “available to undertake ad hoc tasks for the Commonwealth in the future”.

Wilkins is well known to the PM from his days running the Queensland cabinet office when the bow tied one had the equivalent gig in NSW.

imageWilkins (pic) would also be familiar with Terry Moran, who is the grand fromage of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra and previously head of Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.

These favoured shiny bums certainly keep their claws on the juicy jobs.

Wilkins was a great influence on Robert Carr and is credited with encouraging the premier to study Nietzsche and German.

Indeed, during idle moments in cabinet meetings and question time, Carr was caught practising his Teutonic grammar.

Financial Review journalist Marcus Priest also pointed out in an article in September 2004 that Wilkins father, Bruce, had been a chemist at James Hardie and CSR and was involved in the development of asbestos fibre board.

Young Roger had backed a scheme considered by the government to limit interstate claims by asbestos victims in cases before the Dust Diseases Tribunal.

He had also been spotted leaving NSW parliament with Meredith Hellicar, the chairwoman of James Hardie.

After disclosing his family connection to the company Wilkins withdrew from the government’s negotiations on the Hardie issue.

Priest is now an adviser to the Attorney General, Robert McClelland.

* * *

In the latest round of silk applications in NSW 127 barristers have put up their hands for consideration.

The sifting, sorting, and culling is to be done by a panel comprised of A. Katzmann, T. Bathurst, S. Gageler, P. Byrne and T. Meagher.

The results will be final and no correspondence entered into.

Anon. news tips to Justinian


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 5, 2008, 4:02 am

Thanks for the tip on the new Ubermensch's asbestos connection.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 5, 2008, 6:59 pm

Where can I get a bow tie?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 6, 2008, 1:48 am

Great column. Many thanx for all the fun xx
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 7, 2008, 10:21 pm

Not that bullshit NSW silk selection thing again !!!! You know what Abe Lincoln said : "You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time !!!!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 7, 2008, 10:22 pm

Never trust a man who wears a bow-tie in the day-time.
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