James Farmer

Legal Commentary

Cannabis Bill Not the Right Reform

I have previously written about the Cannabis Bill referendum on my Blog on two occasions.  This is the third.   My justification is that the referendum is close and recent public debate has clarified the issues.  The report by the “panel of experts” chaired by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser and the further report by the New Zealand Drug Foundation also raise concerns as to whether the public is receiving full, accurate and sufficient disclosure of the potential harm that cannabis causes to health, particularly the young.  The distinction between legalization and decriminalization is also not fully appreciated.  Hence this further (and final) posting, which was the subject of a presentation to the Auckland Rotary Club on 5 October. More...

Whatever the result, is this the last time the America's Cup event is held in New Zealand?

New Zealanders have had a love-hate relationship with the America’s Cup and in particular with Team New Zealand since at least the time when the Cup was lost to Alinghi in 2003.  Always regarded – and in fact – “a rich man’s sport” and as such not easily fitting the New Zealand psyche where Jack is as good as his master, the efforts of Peter Blake, Russell Coutts, Brad Butterworth and Tom Schnakenberg in wresting the Cup from the United States and Dennis Connor in 1995 gave us a pride of achievement, a sort of David and Goliath feeling. More...

Cannabis Legal Reform - Arguments For and Against

I have consistently believed that cannabis is a harmful substance and that people who use it for “recreational purposes” would be more sensible to choose a healthy form of recreation that doesn’t put them and those dependent on them, i.e. their children and future children, at risk of harm. More...

Will the Proposed Cannabis Legislation Achieve its "Overarching Objective" of Reducing the Harms Associated with Cannabis Use?

What does the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (to be voted for or against in the Referendum) provide?  More...

The Debate Continues - Virtual Hearings or Real Hearings

http://theitcountreyjustice.wordpress.com/author/abridgement/

With his permission, I have provided a link above to the website that Dr David Harvey, former District Court Judge, operates. This is mandatory reading, though I remain convinced that we should not compromise the essential elements of the in-court, oral, adversarial hearing. David’s contrary position, put in delightful language, is:

“Although the panoply of justice and the ‘majesty of the law’ aspect of public performance may serve some ceremonial or symbolic purpose they are not necessary to the proper and efficient delivery of justice services.”

That forces me to confess that I personally opposed the abolition of the wearing of wigs and bans in court. Why? To me, they did indeed symbolise the majesty of the law or, to put it more prosaically, they served as a reminder to everyone present - litigants, witnesses and counsel – that this was a serious forum and occasion where truth, honesty and fairness were on trial.

Jim Farmer

1 May 2020 More...

These Issues were all Predicted Pre-Covid-19 and 6 Years Ago

http://www.gilliancoumbe.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Gillian-Coumbe-QC-presentation-on-advocacy-challenges-in-21st-century-6-September-2014.pdf

This is a paper written and presented 6 years ago by Gillian Coumbe QC at the World Bar Conference in 2014 on the advent, and dangers, of technology being used to create virtual hearings in our courts, in the cause of efficiency. I would urge everyone to read and consider every word of it when thinking of how the courts should be dealing with the problems of Covid-19 today and to weigh those problems against the damage that the proposed solution of remote hearings of substantive matters will cause.

Jim Farmer

2 May 2020 More...

More Correspondence on Covid-19 and the Courts

Thanks, Jim.  Good to have the contrasting views.  I am, however, with you on the need for and importance of in person hearings.  Sure, we can all "manage" otherwise to some degree if needed.  But, it's far from ideal (and I’m sceptical about some of the efficiency claims too).  My friends in the UK who have done Skype hearings in the Commercial Courts are all bemoaning those.  Consistent view seems to be that they take far longer/are much more tiring for all and advocacy gets lost.  I don't think arbitration is the silver bullet either.    More...

In Defence of Remote Technology - from Steve Keall

Dear Jim,

I was pleased to read this interesting and well thought out opinion piece.

In this spirit of healthy debate, I will chime in, so that you may continue to develop your thinking about this important topic.

I do not think there would be much disagreement in the way you have described the key societal/ juridical values for hearings. The crux of it is whether technology can serve those values. In my opinion, this is a functional/ technical issue. It is not a binary question of whether the technology is good enough or not. That is unfair, because “in-person” hearings have their share of imperfections. The question is whether, broadly speaking, technology is sufficient; which is to say it works well enough most of the time. I suggest it can be dealt with in these approximations rather than with exactitude. I suggest this is the test.

This issue is receiving a lot of attention presently in the common law world. There are examples of technology satisfying the test as I have described it. I draw to your attention the recent trial in the England/ Wales Commercial Court; Kazakhstan v The Bank of New York Mellon, which, I understand, took place between 26 March and 1 April. It was fully “virtual.” “Virtual” is perhaps an unfortunate term, it evokes science fiction, reminding members of the bench of scary childhood reading many decades ago. A more straight forward way of describing it would be to say that all of the trial steps took place outside of the Courtroom using audio-visual technology only. In this case, all participants (judge, counsel and witnesses (factual and expert) participated by audio-visual link within England, and also from Belgium, Kazakhstan and the United States. You will be able to read commentary about the case online. It seems to me that it was generally regarded as a success. It is proof of concept.

 You mention technical glitches you have encountered. May I suggest you do not need to be troubled by these; “glitches” are a fact of life; when we are together in person or not. As one of our country’s most experience litigators, you are more familiar than anyone with the idea that trials are organic and fluid. Adaptation is not just something that happens sometimes. It is continuous state; a permanent frame of mind. So, when the signal is lost, one may wait patiently for it to resume. When a pet walks into the shot, it can be quietly shoo-ed out of the room or for more serious transgressions, put down (but not on camera). Often technical glitches in an audio-visual setting are temporary; caused by a momentary interference by the weather for example.

In-person hearing have their own hazards. I remind myself of a trial a colleague was involved in a couple of years ago. Junior dropped the water jug. It splintered and she cut her hand badly; with great drama is spurted blood all over the bar table. The judge paled, and swiftly exited stage-left to leave time for counsel and the crockery to be reassembled. Which they were. The trial proceeded, it made for a good story, all was well, Justice was done.

Also, I remind you that AVL has been a staple of Court practice for some time; for people on remand or serving a sentence of imprisonment, for anything except trial. They lost their right to attend Court some time ago; AVL was accepted as expedient.

Thank you again for your interesting and thought provoking piece.

All the best

Steve Keall More...

Court Hearings and Covid-19 - Part Two

Following communications from some lawyers after yesterday’s posting, I feel it may be necessary to summarise my overall view of what should be happening in the courts in relation to trials and other substantive hearings (e.g. appeal hearings) as a result of Covid-19 and, more particularly, now that we are in Alert Level 3. It is of course only the view of one barrister but here it is:  More...

Recent Posts

  1. Cannabis Bill Not the Right Reform Chris Goode 07-Oct-2020
  2. Whatever the result, is this the last time the America's Cup event is held in New Zealand? Chris Goode 14-Sep-2020
  3. Cannabis Legal Reform - Arguments For and Against Chris Goode 13-Aug-2020
  4. Will the Proposed Cannabis Legislation Achieve its "Overarching Objective" of Reducing the Harms Associated with Cannabis Use? Chris Goode 18-May-2020
  5. The Debate Continues - Virtual Hearings or Real Hearings Chris Goode 02-May-2020
  6. These Issues were all Predicted Pre-Covid-19 and 6 Years Ago Chris Goode 02-May-2020
  7. More Correspondence on Covid-19 and the Courts Chris Goode 30-Apr-2020
  8. And here is a Report from Stuff of a Virtual Hearing this Week Chris Goode 30-Apr-2020
  9. In Defence of Remote Technology - from Steve Keall Chris Goode 29-Apr-2020
  10. Court Hearings and Covid-19 - Part Two Chris Goode 29-Apr-2020
  11. Court Hearings and Covid-19 Chris Goode 28-Apr-2020
  12. Covid-19 and Executory Contracts: Will the Doctrine of Frustration Apply? Chris Goode 06-Apr-2020
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  21. America's Cup Part 3 Chris Goode 04-Dec-2017
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