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A little more conversation

Briefs

Cite as: (2009) 83(06) LIJ, p.14

Lawyers planning to apply for judicial appointment in the Victorian court system have been told that appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) experience could give them an edge.

The message was relayed through Department of Justice advertising which ran in all major newspapers during April, callling for expressions of interest for appointment to the Supreme, County and Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria and as a coroner.

“A demonstrated interest in ADR is an advantage and participation in ongoing judicial education will also be viewed favourably,” it read.

The advertisements reinforced Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls’ agenda of making non-adversarial methods “the core business of courts” and a viable alternative to “expensive, time-consuming and complex” legal matters.

In a press release, Mr Hulls said the government was seeking legal professionals from a range of backgrounds to broaden the pool of candidates.

“We are particularly interested in candidates who have an interest in ADR, which we believe is essential to the future of Victoria’s justice system,” he said.

Advertising for judicial appointments is a reasonably recent development, being undertaken by both the Victorian and federal governments.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who also advertised nationally during April for positions in the federal courts, said the tool allowed for all qualified candidates to be considered.

“For far too long the appointments process was shrouded in mystery and diminished public confidence in the justice system,” he said.

In March, Mr Hulls appointed barrister Jennifer Davies SC to the Supreme Court to fulfil a commitment to provide the jurisdiction with an ADR judge.

LIV president Danny Barlow said the entire Victorian legal system had been increasingly using ADR methods for 15 years and it was inevitable this would also occur within the courts system.

“Our members have been using and embracing ADR for years and it is not a new thing. The pace may be stepping up but our members are up to it,” he said.

At a recent LIV forum [see “Mediation to be judged in Supreme Court, May 2009 LIJ, page 17], Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren described judge-led mediation as a golden opportunity and that “settlement conferences involving judges in the Supreme Court” may soon be trialled.

However, she warned judicial involvement in ADR brought risks that included the variable suitability of judges to take on the role, the resource intensive nature of ADR potentially impacting on court resources and that judges could become witnesses in disputes over settlement agreements that fail.

Chief Justice Warren also said there would be a potential to undermine confidence in the judiciary if a judge met with parties separately and that participants could feel pressured into settlement because of a judicial presence.

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