Courts

What is Amy Adams trying to hide?

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Arts, lifestyle and travel blogger, David Farrar, blogs today about Amy Adams performing a volte-face on the Judicature Modernisation Bill.

This bill was going to allow District Court judgments to be published online just as the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judgments are. But strangely Amy Adams has removed that clause.

One of the interesting features of the Judicature Modernisation Bill was that it would require (Clause 401) final judgments to be published online of District Courts.  At present, only the judgments of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are published online as a matter of course – on Judicial Decisions Online.  So this reform would mean District Court judgments would now be routinely published online. This would be great as it would lead to much more open justice.

As present you have to request release of a district court judgement from the Judge and provide reasons for your request.  This is highly unsatisfactory. Courts should not be secret.

But something very unusual has just happened.   Read more »

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A judge should not be able to over rule how a trust is run

The whole point of setting up a trust is not only for protection of assets but also to create a living will.  A trust, properly set up, can provide its beneficiaries with income long after the person who set it up has died.

The old-fashioned traditional way was to write a will.  Traditionally, a will leaves the assets to family members and specifies how the assets should be divided.  Wills are regularly contested in court, particularly if a parent does not divide the assets equally amongst the remaining children.

Even when the division of assets is equal, one sibling can still demand more than their “fair share”.  I know this for a fact as it happened to a friend of mine.  The unreasonable and selfish sibling in my friend’s case ended up getting the majority of the assets simply because they  made it clear that they were prepared to spend years in court and cost the other siblings thousands of dollars, even if this meant that all the inheritance was used up.

Until I read this article I believed that setting up a trust was the best way to provide for my children after my death.  The purpose of a trust, I believed,  could not be overruled  in court. If the trust stated clearly that the assets are not to be sold, but that the passive income was to be divided equally amongst the trust beneficiaries, I expected that it could not be contested.  This latest case in the article below shows that a judge can overrule totally the wishes of the person who set up the trust.  This is a terrible precedent.  It makes me think that no matter how I structure my will or set up a trust any disgruntled relative can use the courts to override it.

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(Former) Law Society president Jonathan Temm upset that police are doing a good job

A rare occasion when the champion of the criminal, the NZ Herald, actually takes the side of police, so it’s worth highlighting since it’s a rare slip up in their usual anti-authoritarian stance.

Statistics rule our world in many ways, but their value is surely taken too far when they tell us the rate of successful criminal prosecutions is too high. That is what the New Zealand Law Society said when Statistics New Zealand reported the conviction rate to be its highest in at least 35 years. Last year, 83.2 per cent of people charged in our courts were convicted. Prosecution success rates have risen in 10 of the past 11 years.

“It’s heading the wrong way,” said Law Society president Jonathan Temm. “Our level should be constantly around the 75 per cent mark. Anything over 80 per cent (means) people are pleading guilty to things that in the past they would not have been convicted of.”

Really? How was that figure pre-determined to be the benchmark of justice? It is reminiscent of school exams in the days of “scaling”. If much more than 50 per cent of pupils passed the qualification, it meant the exam was not hard enough.

In that event, the education authorities used to scale back all marks so only the desired proportion passed. If more pupils than usual had been smart enough, or had studied hard enough, to pass that year, well, tough luck for some of them. At least, there is no suggestion some of each year’s convictions should be quashed to reduce the rate to 75 per cent retrospective, but that is a small mercy. Why can we not simply celebrate a rising success rate for those who bring charges to court?

It shows clearly that Police are doing an excellent job at deciding what will succeed in front of a court and what will be a waste of time or is hopeful thinking. I, personally, can’t see any down-side to criminals being convicted at higher rates. All this against a backdrop of a reduction in over-all crime!   Read more »

Good judges tell slimy fleabag lawyer where to get off

This sort of thing makes me angry.

A building project manager charged with carrying out unlawful work on an Auckland site has argued he technically didn’t carry out the works – his construction team did.

Chin Keon Tan appealed to the High Court at Auckland, after he was charged in the district court with carrying out building work without a consent.

Although Tan was the project manager for the East Tamaki work site, he argued that he did not personally do any physical building work.

Following his not guilty plea in the Auckland District Court, Tan sought a pre-trial determination of the term “carry out works”.

A summary of facts said Tan had been charged after an Auckland Council building compliance officer visited the property to see multiple renovations had been undertaken without consent. Read more »

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Trial by Jury can be a lottery on the rest of your life

The right to trial by jury is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system.

But is this just quaint nostalgia? Is it time to seriously examine our jury system and whether it is actually serving the interests of justice?

Today we take you inside the jury room to expose the dark truth about what can happen when crime and prejudice clash in a high-profile high-stakes murder trial.

 

THREE-QUARTERS of the jury in a high-profile double-murder case were convinced the accused was guilty after hearing barely three hours of evidence in the month-long trial.

The explosive claims have raised serious concerns about the integrity of the jury system and what potentially can happen when jurors allow personal prejudice to taint their objectivity.

What make these claims even more compelling – and controversial – is the fact that on this occasion they’ve come from inside the jury room.

A juror in the retrial of double murder accused Cheng Qi ‘Chris’ Wang has spoken out this week about what he claims are serious failings with the whole jury system .

The man – who we will refer to as “Juror X” – was on the jury in Wang’s second trial – and played a crucial role in what eventually would be his acquittal on the two murder counts.

In August 2013 Wang, then 52, was found not guilty of the murder iin January 2011 of Zhuo ‘Michael’ Wu, 44, but guilty of the manslaughter of Yishan “Tom” Zhong, 53.  Read more »

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Herald editorial on Justice reforms

The Herald editorial looks at the comments from last week by Judith Collins on speeding up the justice system.

The time it can take for judges to issue a reserved decision is one of the enduring mysteries of the justice system. It can be many months, even a year or more, following a hearing at which the learned mind was presented with the salient issues. Litigants can only wonder what could be taking so long, and their lawyers can only advise patience. So it is refreshing to find a Minister of Justice mystified too.

Judith Collins, a lawyer herself, does not suffer from undue deference to the judiciary. Announcing a number of steps to improve the running of the courts, she has given notice that reserved judgments will need to be delivered faster. She says she is concerned at the time judges in some courts are taking and she is sick of hearing the solution is to appoint more judges.   Read more »

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Chester goes soft on crims

Shall we have a sweepstake on when the first big punch up takes place before parties …NBR explains (paid content):

Criminal re-offending may be linked to where bad guys sit in court.

And in what has been described by one senior lawyer as “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”, the justice ministry is about to test the theory at North Shore district court.

From early next year defendants – who traditionally stand in the dock at the side of the courtroom – will move to the front of the court alongside their lawyer.

The theory is that defendants standing in the dock at the side of the court do not “engage” with the court process and therefore reoffend.

Moving defendants to the front of the court, sitting or standing directly in front of a judge, is reckoned to be more “inclusive” and likely to prevent reoffending.

Believe this or not, courts minister Chester Borrows thinks it is a great idea and chief district court judge Jan Marie Doogue has approved the pilot.

Apparently justice minister Judith Collins is not involved.

 Of course Judith Collins isn’t involved, she knows where crims belong.

Why are Boarders being fined?

I am as confused about the fines as the Judge is. Why on earth would be be fining skate boarders or those unfortunates who need to stay in boarding arrangements?

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