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Service work in progress

Briefs

Cite as: Cite as: March 2012 86 (03) LIJ, p.12

The Coalition’s much-vaunted Courts Executive Service (CES) is yet to be finalised despite 16 months passing since it was elected to government.

The CES was a key aspect of the government’s pre-election justice platform.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark has said the CES would once again separate the courts and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) from the Executive and form a new judicial administration system that would allow courts to decide how they spent funds allocated by government.

Under the current system, the Supreme Court, County Court, Magistrates’ Court and VCAT make submissions to government for funding for individual projects.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Robert Clark said a “comprehensive report” from the CES steering committee, received by Mr Clark last September, was still being reviewed.

The spokesperson added that there had been no delays in regard to the implementation of the CES.

“The Victorian Coalition government is proceeding with the establishment of a CES, which will be independent of departmental or political control. Work is continuing on developing the CES in consultation between the government and heads of jurisdiction,” he said.

Mr Clark previously said that the CES would provide the executive support for all Victorian courts and VCAT but allow the jurisdictions to operate autonomously.

The CES returns key administrative roles to the courts and judiciary removed by the previous Labor government and handed to the Department of Justice.

LIV CEO Michael Brett Young said that, once implemented, the profession hoped that the CES would achieve greater efficiency through the justice system.

“It also promises to deliver total independence to the courts, which is always of paramount importance,” Mr Brett Young said.

In April last year, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren issued a press release announcing she had stood down from the “demanding” task of reviewing and vetting potential candidates for senior counsel selection in order to devote herself to helping administer the CES.

“It is very important to support the move to appropriate independence for the Victorian courts,” she said at the time.

“Once established [the CES] will be time-consuming together with my existing judicial and administrative roles.”

Chief Justice Warren said she expected that the Chief Justice would chair the CES board.

It has been previously announced that 150 staff from the courts division of the Department of Justice would be absorbed into the CES.

Mr Clark’s spokesperson told the LIJ that the blueprint for the CES was being based on the South Australian Courts Administration Authority model.

Under that system the judiciary controls the provision of the administrative facilities and services required by state courts to carry out judicial functions.

Mr Clark has also promised to replace the Integrated Courts Management System introduced by former Labor Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

Several judges publicly criticised that system which forced courts into a government-controlled, centralised IT system.

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