Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Postradical Legal Generation - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Postradical Legal Generation - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher education covers much academic debate particularly about items of interest to academic, such as tenure, funding and the poor quality of the latest batch of students. This article however discusses the conservatism of law school academia. They describe how law school academics usually wear suit and tie but more importantly, their writing reveals deep conservatism. In New Zealand, at Auckland University in the 1970s, the Dean was openly homophobic but displayed no dangerous left wing tendencies at all. Some on the staff were more liberal but in the polite middle class way then fashionable, to disguise their real beliefs. Criminal law specialists were more radical, with Bernard Brown always ready to attack the 70's version of the Sensible Sentencing nutters. And Pam Ringwood taught a new approach to Family Law which I think has not been sufficiently recognised anywhere, but certainly had a powerful influence particularly after the massive and radical change in the 1980 Family Proceedings Act. Most of the rest didn't think about social change and the influence of law but carefully examined their little specialist areas like Tort or Contract without any real examination of how society changes affected the law.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Article | First Things

Article | First Things: "Astrue"
Michael Astrue, head of the United States Social Security Administration, has been outed as the poet AM Juster. The author of the article seems surprised as if this were incompatible with life as a public service mandarin. I was differently moved. Where are the poets in our civil service in New Zealand? We had one who was distracted by a flash of cleavage, but we have no record of whether this moved him to verse, or moved him at all for that matter. The Dominion Post (and this can only happen in Wellington) runs little potted biographies of the senior civil servants, some of whom do have unusual hobbies. But we have no poets, which may explain the unending tedium of most of what is produced from official circles. Perhaps we could have a sonnet about liquor from Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a paen to wine perhaps, or a ballad from the Chief of General Staff about the glories of Afghanistan.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Judicial Decisions of Public Interest — Courts of New Zealand

Judicial Decisions of Public Interest — Courts of New Zealand
This site is always worth checking, if for no other reason than to see what the courts managers think are matters of public interest. To day 2 decisions are attracting some attention. The first is R v Gwaze, which sets new ground in New Zealand by setting aside a not guilty verdict from a jury trial, and opening a brave new world where the Crown can appeal a jury verdict (albeit on very restricted grounds). the second is the next skirmish in the Vince Siemer saga, as to what should happen to his contempt sentence imposed for failing to take down the web sites criticising Mr Stiassney and his firm. The irony about the Siemer decision is that he tried to have the Chief Justice recused from this case but in her (minority) decision she would have held for him.

Monday, 17 May 2010

New Conditions of Probation | Miller-McCune Online

New Conditions of Probation | Miller-McCune Online
I stumbled across this article, which appears to show that Texas is not all hang-em high in their approach to dealing with criminals. What appealed to me about Ms Nagy's new system was that it was evidence based. At last-someone who applies a logical and systematic approach to social work! Between the recent legal aid report (the Dame Margaret Bazley Report) and the law Commission, we have a dire need for reform based on research and properly analysed evidence. I have been pretty skeptical about much work done by probation officers in New Zealand, based on probation reports which ranged from the superficial to the unrealisitic. The best are thoughtful and helpful, but too many rely on templates which result in a mechanical summary based on a manual. I intend sending a copy of this article to Corrections Minister Judith Collins.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Children’s Books - Novels About Teens in Prison - NYTimes.com

Children’s Books - Novels About Teens in Prison - NYTimes.com
For all those who are keen on sending teenagers to jail, (take note, Sensible Sentencers) these new novels tell the real story. It will not be any different in New Zealand jails either. Teenagers will always push the limits and as adults we need to fairly and sometimes firmly establish the boundaries. We cannot solve all the tragedies-it is just part of life that sometimes the children hurt themselves and others. We cannot be too judgmental, as after all we survived those risky rears. But if jail is the answer, we are asking the wrong questions.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

US judge questions 'three strikes' policy - National - NZ Herald News

US judge questions 'three strikes' policy - National - NZ Herald News
This is from the NZ Herald-the article points out that the judge does say that the proposed three strikes model for New Zealand does have more judicial discretion and is not as hard line as California. Its worth quoting from the article where he says
"People commit crimes for various reasons, some of it has to do with being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, some of it has to do with the availability of weapons and they're upset. Or they may think they're going to commit a crime like robbery and then the victim isn't as willing as they think and then things become more aggravating and someone gets hurt.

"I don't think the death penalty is a deterrent. I think that to argue that having certain kinds of laws or certain kinds of penalties will automatically cause people to comply doesn't work, based on my experience."

He said a blunt analysis could show crime was reduced by such schemes because locking up criminals meant they were not on the streets. "But at what costs? My concern always is that sometimes it's looked at as a simple solution and we no longer have to make the effort to rehabilitate - we just lock people up."

Once again this demonstrates the lack of real evidence behind many law reform suggestions. I hope Parliament does work harder on this issue-it has already fallen foul on Bill of Rights criteria.

Monday, 10 May 2010

California man gets eight years for stealing cheese | World news | guardian.co.uk

California man gets eight years for stealing cheese | World news | guardian.co.uk
This article from the Guardian illustrates why we should be wary of the inflexibility imposed by three strikes legislation. I t also shows that Texas is no better than anywhere (and possibly worse) in dealing with the mentally ill as criminals. I am inclined to think that the prices imposed by the poverty stricken dairy farmers for cheese in New Zealand might justify jail for cheese stealing too.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Office of the Judicial Conduct Commission

Office of the Judicial Conduct Commission
On this site can be found the newsmaking report from the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, and for those with a short attention span, the media statement. Does the need to issue a media statement say something about the perception of media intelligence and ability to understand hard stuff?
What interested me about the report was the oblique criticism of retired Justice Sir Edmund Thomas. In a surprising complaint Sir Edmund relied on second and third hand discussions as part of his now well known 18 page complaint to the Commissioner. I was taught that the best evidence is the original statement and I expect that the learned judge has many times decided issues on exclusion of hearsay evidence. This lack of evidential rigor cannot help in reaching an impartial result.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Judges

This is just a quick post about Justice Priestley following the High Court appeal in Mckinnon v New Zealand Police HC Rot Cri-2010-463-000001 30 April 2010. The decision is unremarkable except for the way in which with some care and compassion, Justice Priestley dismissed the appeal. It would be easy to write a mechanical decision simply dismissing the appeal on the merits. However he clearly approached this matter giving some recognition and respect to the boys father, who helped his son on the appeal, and with a sympathetic and understanding analysis of what happened. We are quick to criticise judges who we consider have not dealt with matters as we want. We seldom recognise those who illustrate the best qualities of humanity but with legally consistent and fair results. In this judgement Justice Priestley should be commended.

I have added to this a  decision of the Court of appeal decision in  Garnett v R CA CA187/2009 7 May 2010 where he was part of the panel. His humane approach was fortunate indeed for Ms Garnett, who was spared jail to instead substitute home detention.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Law Commission flags privacy changes - national | Stuff.co.nz

Law Commission flags privacy changes - national | Stuff.co.nz
I will not try to earn the chocolate fish offered by Sir Geoffrey Palmer at his speech today. The meaning of privacy is too subtle and personal to be pinned down at law-and yet we have tried to do so. It is no wonder that some Government agencies get this wrong and why we sometimes read of ridiculous decisions made in the face of those misinterpretations. The Act does not come close to dealing with new concepts like Facebook where some people choose to hang out their personal lives in public. Unlike other projects this is properly the subject of the Law Commission. In many ways the whole thrust of the Act could be encapsulated in the idea that you should have a choice how much your personal information is available, and what to do when someone breaches your privacy boundaries. A simple concept like that could save some tonnes of paper but may be too obvious.