I’m just back from the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney where I had a peek at the Mirka Christos files (aka Marie Christos).
While we know Mirka has created merry hell for Michael Ryan, the Mensch’s former solicitor, it seems her own life has not been a bed of rose petals.
Knock shop at Balgowlah … disappointment with Michael … anxious custody battle in the Family Court … then in 2004 her former solicitors Beilby Poulden Costello commenced Local Court proceedings against her over money claimed for fees ($34,651.80) in the Family Court proceedings.
Her barrister Graham Thompson from the Melbourne Bar n’ Grill also sued for fees, wanting $37,561.17.
Mirka was not happy and sent off a handwritten letter to the firm, and it that looks as though her pen may have been guided by someone not altogether unfamiliar with the law:
“I am unhappy that you have commenced these proceedings at this time when you must know that I have been under extreme pressure. I am still under a lot of stress because judgment [in the custody dispute] has not been delivered, and I may yet have to go through an appeal which I cannot afford.
“Due to the pressure of the trial and my anxiety about the pending judgment I have not had time nor energy to deal with your statement of claim.
“As a single mother, there have also been many other demands on my attention in December  namely with my son’s graduation from primary school and also the Christmas holiday period.
“I believe you are claiming excessive costs and disbursements. As a result I request you prepare a detailed assessment of your costs and disbursements in a proper billable form that satisfies the requirement of the Family Court.
“I cannot give further consideration to your claim for costs until I receive a proper assessment in assessable taxable form…”
She put on a defence that “costs have been improperly and negligently incurred” and that she will be issuing a notice under Rule 42 of the Family Court disputing the bill.
Anyway, Beilby Poulden Costello and Thommo in Melbourne agreed to have their bills taxed and to stay the Local Court proceedings until costs had been ventilated in the Family Court.
The last thing we saw on the file is that the plaintiffs were given leave to discontinue the proceedings. The trail went cold after that.
Another thing we turned up was that Mirka put in a stint as personal assistant to no less a luminary than Anna Katzmann (seen here), next prez of the NSW Bar Lounge & Grill.
* * *
Things have been going a bit cold on The Mensch front, apart from occasional investigations turning up more fake baubles.
The latest was in The Daily Rupert, which claimed that despite listing it on his CV, Einfeld was never a director of Marks & Spencer in London.
No doubt the honest plods of the NSW Police Force in the fullness of time will work out whether The Mensch was misleading the court about the identity of the speeding driver of his vehicle.
In the meantime, a few snippets have been forwarded about Einfeld’s judicial method.
One of the most alarming instances was his decision in a sexual harassment case known as Sheiban. Here The Mensch found, as president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in July 1988, that three women had been sexually harassed by Dr Atallah Sheiban, but awarded them no damages.
The findings were that the doctor had engaged in unwanted touching and attempts at closer physical contact. He placed his hand under one woman’s uniform and twice undid uniform zips. He made comments about the legs and backside of one of his employees. But The Mensch said all this amounted to “mild discomfort” for the complainants:
“Woman with normal experiences … know very well the various ways in which some men occasionally behave.”
[Excuse me while I clear my throat.]
He decided that none of the women should have damages or costs and that the “public exposure of these complaints” and his findings were “sufficient relief”.
Sustained yelps issued from upset people. Justice Elizabeth Evatt, from the Australian Law Reform Commission, said that the decision by Einfeld was a dangerous throwback to the days of blame-the-victim.
There were calls by legal academics to the Prime Minister Bob Hawke for Einfeld’s sacking as head of HREOC. Among the voices were Prof Michael Chesterman and Associate Profs Jane Levine, Richard Chisolm and David Weisbrot.
The ACTU women’s committee added to the cries for this champion of the oppressed to be chopped. The Silver Bodgie would have strongly disapproved of behaviour like this being condoned by a federal judge.
Lockhart, Wilcox and French in the full Federal Court thought that The Mensch’s thinking was not up to speed, and remitted the complaints about the doctor back to HREOC to be dealt with according to law.
Six weeks after the Sheiban decision, and before the appeal had been heard, The Mensch changed his ways in the Whyalla Fish Factory case.
This too concerned groping, touching and making life miserable for female employees. Among other things the male employer exposed himself to one of the women in the fish factory’s freezer room.
Woman sat in the Whyalla courtroom in silent protest at The Mensch’s appearance. Some sent cards saying he should go back to Sydney.
This time Einfeld was concern itself as he awarded one of the complainants $7,000 and the other $6,000.
The other day one of Justinian’s subscribers blogged of a personal experience of appearing as counsel before the judge:
“Some years ago Marcus Einfeld sat in the ACT Supreme Court as a ‘visiting judge’ (as Federal Court judges do from time to time when numbers get a bit low) in an armed robbery trial.
“Evidence was led by the defence of an alibi for the accused which proved to be a bit rubbery and the then Justice Einfeld was OUTRAGED. He made sure the miscreants (two poor little junkies whose evidence didn’t amount to much anyway) were charged with perjury whereupon he sent them off to gaol for nine months.
“Criminal lawyers will know that perjury charges and convictions are as rare as hen’s teeth. Just thought I’d mention it. The Defence Counsel.”
Footnote: Something catches your eye when you alight from the lifts at the ground floor of Selborne Chambers in Phillip Street. A nameplate has been freshly amended: “The Hon Marcus Einfeld AO QC”, but no “Justice”.