Tuesday, 15 September 2009

On line comments

A timely reminder from the New York Times about the care needed by lawyers in posting on social networks. A successful lawyer requires balance-while you may think a judge is wrong or inadequate, your remedy is the highly structured system of appeals or the official complaint system. In New Zealand we have a Judicial Complaints Commissioner but the reality is that a complaint is a high risk. If you don't succeed it could end your court career, especially in a small town. However I don't think we have too much to complain about here. The worst behaviour is usually impatience with stupidity, and stupidity is something judges have to endure frequently. We have had some colourful judges in the past. The late Justice Morris attracted his share of complaints, although my experience of him was a low tolerance for fools, and somehow I managed to avoid any direct hits. I was talking recently to very senior lawyer who suggested I should write about some of the others. We don't have many biographies of judges- Sam Mahon's My Fathers Shadow is an exception-but is more about the father son relationship than the judge. There are some barbs reserved for other judges however. The others published recently are just collections of war stories. We have a need for more intellectual analysis of our judges. Unless we know how they really think, the context of their decisions may be obscure. Members of the Critical Legal Thinking school may have strong views about judges, who are mostly appointed from very conventional middle class backgrounds. They must reflect the values of their class and upbringing, and to be able to reach into and understand those from outside of the barricades would be a massive adjustment.

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