Thursday, 25 November 2010

Police chief calls for cut in prisoners | Stuff.co.nz

Police chief calls for cut in prisoners | Stuff.co.nz
Hello Mr Obvious! He has become concerned that there is a university of prison which adds to the probability of further increases in numbers of inmates. And why is this we may ask? Because both the Labour and National Party have shamelessly bowed to the fanatics in the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and imposed greater sentences by legislation and told the judges to increase the length where the act prescribed long sentences already. Mr Broad is quite right-when will we stop this horrific incarceration rate that makes a mockery of our so called liberal society?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Forum Conveniens

Leading from my last post about travelling, I have noted the recent case of Udovenko v The Ship: MV Pelican8 November 2010 Gendall J High Court, Nelson CIV-2009-442-514. 


This was an admiralty case in which the defendant sought a stay of the case because there was a better forum, being the courts of Australia, and where it was argued, the Australian law applied to the contract. Justice Gendall observed 2 things which may be important for choice of courts, that the Australian litigation would cost more than New Zealand litigation, and that the growth of videoconferencing means the arguments about the location of witnesses to support a change of court, may not have the same weight any more. He declined the stay enabling the plaintiff to continue in the New Zealand High Court.


As an aside, this means it will be in the Nelson Registry, which when I last attended had a very friendly refrigerator with beer and wine left for the lawyers on an honesty system. That alone, if it still exists, must be a compelling reason for keeping the forum as the Nelson High Court, although I suspect Justice Gendall may not have factored this in.


It is a while since I argued the decision in Air Nauru v Niue Airlines Ltd - [1993] 2 NZLR 632, where these issue were argued in the context of liquidation proceedings, which effectively trumped the exclusive jurisdiction clause in the contract.   




Sunday, 7 November 2010

Travelling



Size like time is relative, and depends on the perspective of the occupant. I have noticed in travelling that there seemed to be two types of people, those content with where they live, and those who have passports in a state of disrepair. This does not seem to depend on where you are, but rather on a restlessness that seems to compel the travellers to move on every few years. Part of this seems to be that a traveller will explore their (temporarily) adopted home, perhaps more thoroughly than the occupant. How many New Yorkers have bothered to ascend to the top of the Empire State building? I suggest many visitors do. For the steady homebody, there is no compelling need to explore, to constantly look for the new. They are cursed with satisfaction. Their home is just the right size, and they shudder at the thought of the smaller or larger alternatives.

I remember meeting an old inhabitant in a pub, the sole pub in a small country location which barely could be called a village. When I told him of my home city, he sounded dubious, wondering how dangerous it was. He had barely travelled beyond the small and scarcely populated coast, but was clearly content with the limitations. I had similar conversations with friends from my own city in talking about Asian cities. My friends thought the size and population was overwhelming and clearly dangerous, although my own experience was that I felt safer. In fact, after living in very large cities I felt uneasy in smaller places, with almost no one on the street.

Early man appears to have had a very long time living in roving bands of hunter gatherers. The city dwellers are very new, and seemed to have started in the Middle East and China, where the urban tradition has a continuous lineage. No doubt the new city dwellers decided they felt more comfortable with the increased numbers rather than roving in a small band of rural hunters.

The restless travellers may be a reversion to those early hunter gatherers, constantly seeking the new game. We settle down, explore where we are, and then look for what is over the next bridge. Familiarity has made our home shrink, so we look for the edges, and set off to explore again. We forget the stress of modern travel in the need to find the next apartment, the new local restaurant and check out the vagaries of the local bus system.

Travellers never take holidays in the same place, or if they do are vaguely dissatisfied with the familiar. The homebodies have a camping ground or a holiday home where they and their family have happily settled, taking comfort in the familiarity and complaining if there is development changing their surroundings.

The comfort of the familiar is tied to the size. The size is not important, for it is the right size to those who live here. Those who move from the country to a city slowly lose those ties and settle in. The travellers seem to be more urban. I cannot think of any of my family in recent generations who have lived in the country. We are mostly travellers, and even if we settle into one place, find the need to travel for work or holidays. Our local world becomes too small.

For me, there is a huge comfort in knowing that within my lifetime I will have the opportunity to travel outside planet Earth. The first pioneers are selling seats, and there is talk of the first hotels in orbit. With hotels, will inevitably come the first settlers, who will be travellers in a whole new sense.

And yet, when I talk to many about the chance to go somewhere truly immense like leaving planet Earth, they shudder. They talk of the dangers, the new technology, the risk. And, they quietly pack the car and drive off to the family beach house, in the comfort of knowing that it is unchanged from last year.

Are we as travellers the descendants of the hunter gatherers, or are we descended from those who broke away from the traditional hunting grounds for the adventure of building a new city? And having built that city, did the travellers become restless and form a new settlement? I think the ancient Greeks were travellers. They founded colonies all over the Mediterranean, and travelled to Britain and Africa and China. The Romans, still considered that all roads lead to Rome. They sought to duplicate the Roman model in cities they founded, with temples, a forum, a gymnasium and an amphitheatre. The Greeks seem to have adopted local customs as well as maintaining their Greek culture, as can be seen in Egypt with the Ptolemys. While the Roman Empire was always larger than the Greek sphere of influence, the Romans felt the need to impose Roman customs and Latin, so they had the familiarity of home.

The new Romans, from the United States, impose their culture so that on their travels there is always the comfort of a McDonald's or Starbucks coffee. American television is ubiquitous and Hollywood still dominates large and small screens. And yet, American travellers have reached the moon. But travelling through the United States, I found many of my family never had passports, much like Sarah Palin. American culture filled all their needs, and the concept of looking at St Petersburg or of travelling to Samarkand was alien to them. Those who were compelled to travel to unpromising locations like Iraq or Afghanistan did so by creating their own encapsulated pieces of home culture, complete with fast food, entertainment from home and living in isolated camps to pretend they were still at home.

Perhaps the traveller impulse was met by their ancestors in their often epic journeys to the United States. I hope not. There are still travellers, designing the new spacecraft, drawing the plans for the space hotels and even those listening for the messages, which will give them a goal to travel to. 

Friday, 5 November 2010

Cross Border Insolvency

My latest article in New Zealand Lawyer Extra on the Williams v Simpson case. This case is about the very large haul of gold discovered in Hamilton under an otherwise unprepossessing house, and the efforts of an English trustee in bankruptcy to seek the aid of the New Zealand courts to help uncover the assets of a bankrupt hiding in New Zealand.

Beehive - Minister opens Auckland Drug Treatment Unit

Beehive - Minister opens Auckland Drug Treatment Unit
I am not uncritical about jails as some may notice. But this initiative has to be a start, and the more the better

Iowa Judges Defeated After Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage - NYTimes.com

Iowa Judges Defeated After Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage - NYTimes.com
After the fuss over Justice Bill Wilson perhaps we can be pleased that in New Zealand the judges cannot be removed by the ballot box as occurred in Iowa. the Iowa judges made a ruling regarded as too radical by the electorate, and in the recent elections were recalled. Apparently the bench has a long tradition of judicial activism-
"From its first decision in 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court demonstrated a willingness to push ahead of public opinion on matters of minority rights, ruling against slavery, school segregation and discrimination decades before the national mood shifted toward racial equality. That legacy was cited in liberal corners here last year when the seven-member court voted unanimously to strike down a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, making the state the first in the Midwest to permit same-sex marriage."
I am not sure our judges would feel comfortable with this close relationship to the electorate. Most are pretty conservative on such issues anyway, but the inhibition of potential recall would send a cold chill.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Kristof, Crouch, Soros, and McNamara on Prop 19 - Brainstorm - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kristof, Crouch, Soros, and McNamara on Prop 19 - Brainstorm - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I doubt that the New Zealand government will take much notice if Proposition 19 is passed in California. But scientific evidence seems to show that the laws against cannabis have been as effective as the Prohibition in the United States in the the 1930s. The cost of enforcement and the loss of tax from the revenue make a strong economic case for liberalisation. After all, if gift duty is to be abolished because the cost of compliance is regarded as excessive, then cannabis must also qualify. Like so many social issues, we lack proper analysis of this to make an informed decision. Where are the rigorous studies and the objective assessments? I am unsure myself about the social harm caused by cannabis use. Some do abuse it-there is no doubt. Others seem to cope despite regular use and carry on conventional lives. Just do the work people! I would really like to know!

And as a supplement, Proposition 19 did not pass, so we will not know if this would have worked.
From the LA Times

Proposition - 19 - Legalize Marijuana - Ballot Issue
California - 24845 of 24845 Precincts Reporting - 100%
NameVotesVote %
No3,978,31454%
Yes3,412,38746%