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Cashman calls for comment

Briefs

Cite as: (2006) 80(12) LIJ, p. 15


Leader of the “dream team” responsible for reviewing the Victorian civil justice system, Associate Professor Peter Cashman, has labelled himself the “nightmare component”.

Appointed commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) in early September, Dr Cashman has until September 2007 to make his review recommendations.

Speaking at a Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) President’s Luncheon on 2 November, Dr Cashman said the task ahead was daunting and challenging.

The former partner of national firm Maurice Blackman Cash-man called on LIV members to respond to the VLRC Civil Justice Review consultation paper.

Released in September, the paper asks for feedback on procedures to streamline litigation processes, reduce costs and court delays, and achieve greater uniformity between different courts.

The “dream team”, which includes Justice David Harper, Judge Felicity Hampel, Professor Sam Ricketson and Dr Iain Ross, encourages the profession to express views on problems with the justice system and also propose solutions.

The VLRC will hold talks with members of the legal profession, the insurance industry, the business community, consumer organisations and members of the general community.

In an attempt to stimulate debate and response, Dr Cash-man asked the 106 luncheon guests to consider the strategic objectives of civil justice reform.

“Should there be greater pre-action discloser obligation?,” he asked.

“Should we allow the introduction of an American-style disposition where parties have the opportunity to question other parties under oath ... without the judicial resources and without waiting to see what evidence may be used in the trial?

“Is there a need for Victoria to adopt an equivalent to the UK Civil Justice Council?”

Dr Cashman said that since Lord Woolf’s inquiry into access to justice in 2001, litigation costs had substantially increased, rather than decreased, in the UK.

The “dream team” expects Victorian reforms aimed at reducing costs would be achieved by strategic change to informal rules and procedures, and the culture of dispute resolution.

LIV president Cathy Gale welcomed the review and said it would provide a chance to look closely at the barriers to accessing the courts.

The review follows state Attorney-General Rob Hulls’ Justice Statement in 2004, which outlined a broad program for reform of Victoria’s justice system.

To make a submission to the Civil Justice Review Consultation Paper go to http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au, or call the VLRC on ph 8619 8619.

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