President’s Report – February
Happy New Year and welcome to the first edition of Brief for 2016. I look forward to working with the Executive, our new Council, the Society’s staff and of course you, our valued members, throughout the year. In 2016, the Society will continue to strive to be your essential membership and to meet its purpose as the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia. We rely heavily on the contributions and support of our members and so you will continue to be the foundation of the Society.
2016 also sees a change in the editorship of Brief. I would like to take this opportunity to thank former Editor Julian Sher for his outstanding efforts last year – they were much appreciated. We welcome new Editor Jason MacLaurin, who will no doubt continue the fine work of his predecessors in the role.
It is my sad duty to report that Thomas Hurley passed away on Sunday, 22 November 2015. Mr Hurley was a member of the Victorian Bar and his regular case notes have been a feature of Brief since March 1998. On behalf of the Society, my sincere condolences go to Mr Hurley’s friends and loved ones.
CONSOLIDATED PRACTICE DIRECTION 8.1 – DELIVERY OF RESERVED DECISIONS AND REASONS FOR DECISION
The Society has written to the Principal Registrar of the Supreme Court to propose an amendment to Consolidated Practice Direction 8.1, regarding the restriction on informing a practitioner’s client about the contents of the advance copy of reasons for decision.
The effect of paragraph 14 of the Practice Direction is that an unrepresented litigant is permitted to see the advance copy of reasons for decision from the time the advance copy is available for collection from the Court. However, a party who is represented by a legal practitioner is only allowed to be informed of the contents of the advance copy one hour before the reserved decision is listed to be delivered.
The Society has proposed to the Principal Registrar that where a party is legally represented, once the practitioner collects the advance copy of reasons for decision from the Court, he or she should be permitted to inform the party of the contents of the advance copy straight away. Of course the practitioner would be obliged to comply with the current paragraph 17 of the Practice Direction in relation to informing the client of the confidential nature of the advance copy.
REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS AND DEPRESSION IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION 2011
In 2011, the Society produced a report titled Psychological Distress and Depression in the Legal Profession 2011 (the Report). The Report made 29 recommendations to the Society pertaining to mental health and wellbeing, encompassing a range of awareness-raising, preventative and treatment-focused measures.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing Committee (the Committee) was established and has since assisted the Society in the implementation of the Report’s recommendations. Recommendation 28 was that the Committee be requested to undertake a review of the Report in 2015.
The review examined the relevance and effectiveness of each of the original recommendations. It found that since 2011, the Society has promoted and raised awareness of mental health and wellbeing within the legal profession, resulting in many of the original recommendations becoming redundant. Many of the initiatives proposed in the Report have become established as Society programmes and member benefits.
The result of the review is that the Report’s original 29 recommendations have been reduced to 13, which now form the Mental Health and Wellbeing Recommendations 2016 to 2020. The Society’s Council has adopted these recommendations. The next formal review of the progress on the recommendations will be conducted in 2020.
Whilst pleased with the progress, there remains much to do in this area. Awareness is but the first step, making it somewhat easier to identify and address this area, but the Society remains concerned at the information from recent studies interstate that indicate levels of stress, anxiety and depression are still very high in our profession. We will continue to endeavour to help individuals and practices address this important issue.
MAGISTRATES COURT WEBSITE – PUBLICATION OF DAILY COURT HEARINGS LIST
Members may be aware that although the Magistrates Court has a monitor on its premises displaying a daily court hearings list, this list is not published on the Magistrates Court website. In March 2012 and September 2012 the Society wrote to Michael Johnson, Director, Magistrates Court and Tribunals requesting that consideration be given to the Magistrates Court publishing daily court listings on its website in the late afternoon of the day before, as is done by the Supreme, District and Family Courts.
In 2012, Mr Johnson advised that Magistrate Court listings could not be published until the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) operating in the Supreme and District Courts was fully operational in the Magistrates Court. Mr Johnson expected that the ICMS would be fully operational in another two years.
Three years have since passed and the Magistrates Court daily hearings list is still not published on the Magistrates Court website. A further letter has been sent to Mr Johnson enquiring as to the progress of the ICMS and requesting advice as to when a daily hearings list will be published on the website.
LAW LIBRARY INTEGRATION PROJECT
As a result of recent discussions between the stake holders about this project, I have written to the State Solicitor and the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia (LPBWA) to reaffirm that the Society does not support the introduction of any new levy by the State Government to cover running costs associated with the new Law Library. The Society is of the view that any savings made as part of the Law Library Integration Project must be fully ‘offset’ by the equivalent amount being removed from the cost currently charged for a PC by the LPBWA to fund the existing Supreme Court Library – there should be no reduction in service or additional costs to the profession.