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New independence for courts and VCAT

Briefs

Cite as: December 2013 87 (12) LIJ, p.13

Victoria’s courts and tribunals will be independently administered by July 2014.

Court Services Victoria, a statutory entity free of departmental or political control, will be established under legislation introduced to Parliament on 29 October by Attorney-General Robert Clark.

Currently staff, budget and facilities of the courts and VCAT are controlled by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the executive arm of government.

The new independence of Victoria’s courts and VCAT is historic, said Chief Justice Marilyn Warren.

“This is one of the most significant developments in the almost 180 year history of courts in Victoria,” Chief Justice Warren said on behalf of the heads of jurisdictions.

“Victorian courts will join the High Court, the Federal Court, the Family Court, the South Australian courts, the Irish courts and other courts internationally who have established independent administration.”

A long-time champion of judicial independence, Chief Justice Warren said administrative arrangements could have a profound impact on the discharge of the judicial role. Yet those arrangements were in the hands of the DoJ and government.

“It is only through convention that the role of the judiciary in directing court administration has been maintained. Even then, points of tension have continued to arise when decisions at an executive level have been taken without regard to the special position of the courts.

“For many years the judiciary has sought to achieve administrative arrangements which reflect and support the independence of the courts as a third arm of government.

“The new structure will enhance the capacity of the courts and VCAT to innovate and respond to emerging issues based on first-hand knowledge of the court system.

“This structure will enable the courts and VCAT to better serve the Victorian community with the assurance that they do so independently of executive government.

“The independence of the judiciary is a foundational principle of our constitutional democracy,” the Chief Justice said.

LIV president Reynah Tang welcomed the new statutory body.

“The LIV strongly supports the independence of the judiciary and the wider profession. In that context, the establishment of Court Services Victoria is definitely a move in the right direction,” Mr Tang said.

See “Duty to justice and gender” on page 16.

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