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Judge Sandy Street denounced by Federal Court

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Sandy Street

Litigation is very tough on litigants. They find themselves in an environment where in spite of their strong feelings about their case, their emotions carry no weight and are seldom acknowledged by the court. Furthermore, their fate at trial is the hands of a third party who may rule against them, with disastrous consequences. Adverse findings can be made against them. There is an incredible amount of stress associated with such risks. And of course, there is the massive amount of money they have to pay towards their own legal costs.

In return, the least litigants are entitled to expect is a judge who properly hears their case and considers it in a fair minded way.

Unfortunately, this is not what has been happening for many cases before Judge Sandy Street:

A federal judge who has had at least 61 judgments overturned on appeal since his appointment 3½ years ago has been found in ­recent cases to have repeatedly failed to fulfil the basic judicial task of properly trying cases and giving adequate reasons for his decisions.

In a scathing appeal judgment two weeks ago, Federal Circuit Court judge Sandy Street was found to have “manifestly failed to give adequate reasons, and in places reached conclusions that were plainly wrong”, when he threw out a claim brought by a teacher who had been denied a termination payment promised by the Sydney Catholic school system.

Judge Street — whose father, Sir Laurence, grandfather and great grandfather were all former NSW chief justices — had delivered his decision “ex tempore”, or on the spot, without retiring from the bench for consideration.

He has been repeatedly criticised on appeal, including in at least seven recent cases uncovered by The Weekend Australian, for failing to give proper reasons when delivering judgments in this way.

Since his appointment by the Coalition on January 1, 2015, Judge Street has had at least 61 cases overturned, 14 of these since early March.

Many of his judgments have been delivered ex tempore, helping him to dispose of about 1370 cases in a 26-month period, while the other eight Sydney general federal law judges combined disposed of just 2290 cases.

But in his decision, Federal Court justice Robert Bromwich said the “perceived efficiency” of this approach could be “illusory”, and cause litigants to “suffer” in some cases.

“When ex tempore judgments are used inadequately or inappropriately, the quality of justice delivered may fall below acceptable standards, perceived efficiency may be illusory … costs may be greatly increased (especially due to an appeal) and the final resolution of a dispute may be delayed, rather than accelerated,” he said.”

 

Whilst the Federal Circuit Court does have an incredible workload given the number of family law matters and the variety of other federal matters which come before it, it is important for the interests of justice that litigants are afforded a fair hearing and have their cases considered in a fair and balanced manner.

 

Interestingly, when he was at the bar Judge Street called for a fairer process with respect to the appointment of barristers to silk. The Federal Court clearly wishes for fairer processes in Judge Street’s courtroom.

The perils of social media for twits

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The laws of defamation apply to social media as much as they apply anywhere else:

A FORMER high school student has been ordered to pay $105,000 to a teacher for writing defamatory remarks about her on social media in what is believed to be Australia’s first Twitter defamation case to go to trial.

Former Orange High School student Andrew Farley, 20, made “false allegations” about music teacher Christine Mickle on Twitter and Facebook in 2012, a year after he had left school.

Mr Farley, who had never been taught by Ms Mickle, seemed to bear a grudge against the 58-year-old based on a belief that she had something to do with his father, also a teacher, leaving the school, District Court Judge Michael Elkaim said in his ruling.

“There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief,” Judge Elkaim said. “The effect of the publication on the plaintiff was devastating.’’

Anyone who frequents Twitter (or other social media) on a regular basis would know that false and defamatory assertions are often made about people. In some ways it’s a surprise that it’s taken this long for such a case to result in an award of damages in Australia.

Another twitter defamation case that went to court is that of Liberal pollsters Mark Textor and Lyndon Crosby against former Labor MP Mike Kelly for a tweet Kelly published about push polling.

When people go on social media to rant, they would be well advised to be careful that they do not open themselves to liability for defamation. A right to rant is not the same as a right to defame.

Identity politics, political correctness and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

Posted on Categories Human rights, Judiciary, LibertyTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments on Identity politics, political correctness and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

On 4 November 2016, Judge Jarrett of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia dismissed a claim brought by Cindy Prior under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) as a result of posts published on Facebook by students at the Queensland University of Technology that complained of being kicked out of an ‘Indigenous only’ computer lab. This ends a 3 year long legal saga and ordeal for the students concerned.
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How to be an impressive witness in court

Posted on Categories Evidence, JudiciaryLeave a comment on How to be an impressive witness in court
Introduction

Witnesses are usually assessed according to their credibility and reliability.

In cases where there are disputes of fact, the performance of the relevant witnesses will be critical, as the case is likely to be determined according to which witnesses are believed and which are not.

This article discusses dome of the do’s and don’ts involved in giving evidence at a hearing.
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Response to invitations for submissions concerning a Bill of Rights in Australia

Posted on Categories Bill of Rights, Human rights, Judiciary1 Comment on Response to invitations for submissions concerning a Bill of Rights in Australia

To: The Human Rights Working Group

Queensland Law Society

RE CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS ON A BILL OF RIGHTS

Dear Sir/Madam,

We refer to the invitations for submissions concerning a Bill of Rights in Australia in the February 2016 edition of Proctor.

We write to voice our opposition to a Bill of Rights, for the reasons below.
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