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5 September, 2008  
Goings on ...

Pay shake-up looms for federal judges … Jeff Shaw fights for the freedom to take snaps outside prisons … Law firm persuades protestor to move off its footpath … “The Vibe” finds it’s way into Tasmanian jurisprudence … Clarrie Stevens shaves 40 percent off the bar ‘n’ grill’s professional misconduct costs

imageFamily Court judges are in a state of suspended anxiety.

The Remuneration Tribunal has put on hold its inquiry into pay packet relativities between the Federal, Family and Federal Magistrates’ courts.

Attorney General Robert McClelland requested the inquiry be halted pending the outcome of the Semple review into the family law work of the Family Court and the FMC.

The Family judges’ fear is this – once Semple has finished his job the remunerators will be back sniffing into the productivity relativities with Federal Court judges.

At the moment the pay packets of judges from both courts are at parity: $333,660.

The chief justices of each court are also paid the same: $367,150.

With the FMC eating the Family Court’s pie, there is a case that the pay nexus be broken.

imageThe Family Court judges have retained David (Jacko) Jackson (pic) to try and persuade John Conde’s Remuneration Tribunal that parity is a beautiful thing and should last forever.

There’s a further money scramble, as the federal maggies have put in a submission that their pay be raised from around 75 percent of federal judges to 85 percent.

It could be, horror of horrors, that in due course Family Court judges will be paid about the same as federal magistrates.

When will the indignities cease?

* * *

Former NSW Attorney General and Supreme Court judge Jeff Shaw is quietly knocking up small but meaningful victories – these days as a solicitor.

In July it was the triumph of persuading the Federal Court to strike down the World Youth Day regulations aimed at preventing pilgrims being “annoyed”.

imageNow Shaw (pic) has humbled the brutal, ham-fisted Corrective Services’ machine.

His client, Jocelyn Neilson, is a part-time para-legal from his Darlinghurst firm, the People’s Solicitors.

Early last month Neilson and Shaw went to get instructions from a prisoner at Lithgow’s maximum security nick, down the western side of the Blue Mountains.

When they left the jail, Neilson took a photo as a memento of the occasion.

She was standing on the public highway, outside the precinct of the prison when she took her snap.

Immediately she and the former AG were confronted by bright spark prison officers who demanded their personal details and announced: “You will be hearing from us over this.”

Sure enough Neilson received an official letter form the Department of Corrective Services informing her that she had been banned indefinitely from visiting any of the state’s correctional facilities.

Shaw responded with an application to the Supreme Court asking for the declaration to be struck down.

He argued that it lacked procedural fairness and that the department had no authority to stop photographs being taken of prisons from public space.

The department’s lawyers promptly caved. They consented to orders declaring the initial ban null and void and agreed to pay costs.

Shaw said he’s happy, “although I wouldn’t have minded arguing it out”.

* * *

Also in the same province of “get off my patch”, Hurstville law firm McBride Harle & Martin has had success in getting undertakings from a dissatisfied customer picketing outside its front door in Cross Street.

The allegation was that the impecunious defendant, Damien Palisi, parked his car outside the firm’s offices with a large banner suggesting that the solicitors’ shop had caused him a bit of strife.

The solicitors sought Supreme Court orders restraining the defendant from “displaying, publishing or disseminating material concerning the plaintiffs”.

They also wanted to prevent Palisi “besetting, picketing, obstructing, molesting, harassing, threatening or otherwise interfering” with them or their practice.

The defendant has given an interim undertaking not to go near the law shop or the lawyers and he won’t display his banners and signs.

It’s back in court on Monday (Sept 8).

There seems to be an exciting new trend with aggrieved customers turning up with rude signs outside law firms. Recently there was a placard holder stationed outside Keddies’ Redfern shop front demanding “justice”.

* * *

I suspect this is a first, but “the vibe” gets a judicial mention – in the Van Diemen’s Land Supreme Court.

imageIt turned up last month in Acheson v Hibble, which involved a motion for review of a magistrate’s determination that a charge under the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act had been proven.

In his reasons, under the heading “Judicial nit-picking”, Justice Alan Blow (pic) said:

“Minds might differ as to whether the remarks of the learned magistrate as to bias or lack of impartiality on the part of Dr Ulman, and as to the inference drawn from the evidence as to the conduct of Dr Jelliman, are truly indicative of error. In my view they are. Although the learned magistrate’s reasons were stated orally, rather than in writing, this was a reserved decision. The hearing was on 4 April 2008. The decision was given 19 days later, on 23 April. That being so, I think it quite appropriate to give close consideration to the learned magistrate’s unambiguous detailed reasoning, rather than to make an assessment on the basis of the general vibe of his decision.”

Bravo Blowers.

* * *

Remember Clarence (The Clocker) Stevens – the Sydney tax silk who ran foul of the tax system and the NSW Bar ‘n’ Grill?

The barrister failed to lodge tax returns for close to 20 years and ran up a tax debt of $1.7 million.

There were innumerable rounds between Clarrie and the Bar Association in the Supreme Court, culminating in a decision by the Court of Appeal in 2003 that he was not a fit and proper type to remain on the jam roll.

Then there was another lengthy struggle over costs and here The Clocker has been slightly more successful.

The bar’s lawyers sent in a bill for $375,000. Just a little while ago the result came back from taxing guru Gordon Salier.

He said a fairer amount would be $220,000. In other words, Salier left $155,000 of the bar’s bill on the cutting room floor.

Clarence is out of bankruptcy, but the bar want to put him back there because he’s still to cough up the costs, even at the 40 percent discount.

* * *

I’ve another snippet from Costs Land.

A friendly solicitor advises he’s in a matter involving an argument about whether the termination of a commercial lease is effective.

He’s acting for the tenant who is seeking the return of his security bond of $76,000. The landlord has a cross claim for about $90,000 for repairs, commission, etc.

Not unreasonably the landlord has sought security for costs.

One would have thought the whole thing would be a one day case in the Dizzo.

The tenant was prepared to put up something, but was bowled over when Blake Dawson, for the landlord, estimated its costs at $210,000.

The other side was thinking of a bill of around $20,000. Silly Billys.

* * *

imageMy field agent, just back from the American Bar Association shindig in New York, reports that the septics sure know how to put on a show.

At the opening assembly when the ABA president, William H. Neukom (pic), climbed to the stage he was flanked by a military guard replete with rifles and flags and a brass band struck-up the national anthem.

After the keynote address the band belted out a rendition of Fly Me To The Moon, while all the big wigs jitterbugged away, tapping their feet and snapping their well fed little fingers.

As the prez filed out with his military escort the band let rip with New York, New York.

Isn’t it about time this sort of treatment was laid on here for Ross Ray and the worthies from the Law Council?

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