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Unsolicited (Letters to the editor)

Every Issue

Cite as: (2005) 79(11) LIJ, p. 8


We welcome letters to the editor of no more than 400 words.
Email: letters@liv.asn.au. Fax: 9607 9451.
Mail: LIJ, Managing Editor Mick Paskos, GPO Box 263C, Melbourne 3001; or DX 350 Melbourne.
We reserve the right to edit letters and to republish them in their original or edited form on the Internet or in other media. Letters must include a phone number and address for authentication.

Court needs to improve services

Recently I forwarded complaints to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for issuing on behalf of two clients.

I am unable to have them issued directly out of Moe Magistrates’ Court as the Court requires them to be sent from Melbourne to Moe.

After two weeks I inquired as to where coversheets were for the complaints and was asked to contact Moe. I did so only to be advised that staff were ill and it may be at least another week or so before the complaints were issued.

This is totally unacceptable having regard to the fact that the issue of a summons from the County Court has a turnaround of two days.

Melbourne advised that all complaints being issued are outsourced to Moe.

Surely in this day and age a single member of staff could be appointed to enable the issue of complaints to be dealt with some efficiency?

So much legislation around the profession is predicated on “the consumer” yet this is allowed to happen in the busiest of courts in the system without any concern as to the servicing of our clients.

Surely the government or the Justice Department or Chief Magistrate should deal with this as a matter or urgency given that justice delayed is justice denied.

Bernard Davis
Bernard Davis & Associates

Teaching pro bono partnerships

Enthusiastic, idealistic law students are an untapped reservoir for pro bono legal services. The regular [pro bono] column in the LIJ describes traditional sources of support for pro bono activities.

I would add another stream, and endorse the recommendation from the national Pro Bono Task Force that: “Australian law schools should be encouraged to support programs that enable students to acquire high order professional skills and a deep appreciation of ethical standards and professional responsibility”.

But should the courtroom or the impecunious client be part of the legal curriculum and classroom? The answer is a definite yes if one assumes that legal education should be reoriented “around what lawyers need to be able to do rather than remaining anchored around outmoded notions of what lawyers need to know” and one affirms that the acquisition of legal skills should be acquired as part of a legal degree, not after its conclusion.

Law was taught historically under the apprenticeship system with a student learning on the job from the master. A range of comparable, contemporary activities that law schools could introduce for students hungry to make a difference to society, includes internships, outreach programs with a pro bono focus, clinical [practical] placements and clinical programs.

With proper supervision of these committed law students, at, say, a ratio of 1:4, the multiplier cost-saving effect of these services is enhanced.

The legitimate expectations of these disparate groups of disempowered clients, government funders and legal educators, are syncretised when pro bono providers and law faculties enter into innovative partnerships.

Alan Ray
Supervisor, Springvale Monash Legal Service Inc

No place for adversarial ideology in coronial process

“Speak for the dead, to protect the living”.

This is the catchcall of the Ontario (Canada) Coroner’s Court, and, more recently, an adage adopted in Victoria.

The 19 Coroners’ Courts (CC) throughout Victoria are constantly inundated with a broad variety of cases.

During 2003/04, there were 3828 findings, 284 of these requiring formal coronial inquests. These statistics alone clearly indicate the heavy caseload of the CC.

With due consideration given to the above adage, it is important to ensure that maximum community safety can be derived from each inquest held, and subsequently demonstrate this through any recommendations made by the Coroner. Our concern lies with the adversarial process often adopted by counsel representing interested parties.

We would like to recommend that educational institutions consider adopting a program for lawyers intending to work in the CC, designed to promote the inquisitorial process of the CC rather than the adversarial process in other courts.

Lawyers enrolled in this course would be able to appreciate the delicate balance between their responsibilities to their client while ensuring that the paramount community safety role of the CC is maintained.

Currently, the VPLRC is conducting an inquiry into the Coroner’s Act 1985. These issues have been canvassed before the VPLRC. The transcript is, or will shortly be, available at http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform.

Dave Taylor
Community Development Worker
Springvale Monash Legal Service Inc

mic@liv.asn.au

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