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Taking care of court business

Taking care of court business

By Karin Derkley

Courts Legal Biography 

Amid the hurly burly of the Magistrates' Court, where defendants, witnesses and their families are milling about, often in confusion and sometimes distress, a quietly efficient figure is keeping the whole thing humming along. Court registrars may have a relatively humble and unassuming position but according to Liz Wade, who is researching the history of what were originally called clerks of courts for a PhD at Victoria University’s Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, they are an essential element of a well-functioning court. “If you go and stand in the foyer of the court, you’ll see crowds of people going in different directions, everyone wanting to know where they need to go, saying ‘I don’t have a legal representative’, ‘I’m not guilty – what do I do now?’ And the court registrar needs to triage them all,” Ms Wade says. Her interest in these indispensable court employees was triggered by research she carried out in her role as senior projects officer at the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre. “I realised no one had ever written anything at length about them, and I thought it was important to recognise the contribution they have made to the administration of justice in Victoria,” she says. In the past she worked closely with clerks of courts when she coordinated work experience students in the law department. “The clerks were always happy to take the students under their wing, and the kids would come back so excited from having had an amazing day with them at the courts. They were really interesting characters.”

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