Monday, 17 January 2011

Judge Semi Epati

The Sunday Star Times published an article about Judge Epati going on stress leave. If there ever was a court where stress leave was needed, it would be the Manukau Court, which has one of the busiest judicial workloads in the country. The article criticised him for 2 decisions (over about 9 years on the bench) where his decisions were overturned on appeal. That isn't a bad rate for the number of decisions over that time, and must be a reflection of the stress he is under. My personal experience is that he is always courteous and has a quick wit, often useful for defusing the tense atmosphere. With this comes compassion and a real insight into the South Auckland culture, I hope he has the chance to recover and get back to work. I wonder whether judges sometimes need to compensate and talk to counsellors. The grim side of criminal law can be unrelenting. Mediators are careful to engage in peer support but judges are expected to be pretty tough. This cannot be true for all and we could lose good judges because of the lack of outlets for them to compensate.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Electronic Discovery

In New Zealand the Rules Committee are getting excited about electronic discovery. I wonder how many of them have been involved in this from a practical level, as in my experience the judges (with one or two honourable exceptions such as Judge David Harvey) barely know how to use their computers and would stare blankly if you talk about metadata. In the United States there are significant problems emerging. See in the ABA Journal at http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/e-discovery_sanctions_reach_all-time_high_for_litigants_and_lawyers. As the Rules Committee are also looking at sanctions for lawyers who do not comply with timetable orders, they need to consider the low level of understanding of lawyers in practice about this concept of electronic discovery. Any changes must come in with much more training and education, not just of the specific rules but also in computer basics.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Ballad of Reading Gaol

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.



This extract from Oscar Wilde's poem, reminds us that jail was not the answer at the turn of the 19 Century, and is still true. What good did the jailing of a fun loving, witty and erudite poet achieve? Most of the inmates in New Zealand jails lack Oscar's poetic skills, and certainly his aesthetic sense, although in prison they may adopt some of his preferences. But when will we think of a better answer?