Alternative Law Journal
SIMON FREITAG[*] toasted the judiciary at the annual High Court dinner in Perth.
I thought I might offer some advice to the High Court from a young practitioner: Indeed, I thought this was well overdue, as so far, the adv1ce all seems to have been one way. In preparation for this speech I did some extensive research at a cocktail party and asked a few young lawyers what they would say to the High Court. It appears that most of them would say, as I did to his Honour Justice Kirby some years ago, please give me an associateship!
But I say, ask not what the High Court can do for me, but what I can do for the High Court. And so, I have identified two main areas where the High Court might benefit from some advice from a young practitioner. They are: brevity and celebrity.
• 7:0 is the key to decisions. When you agree, you don't have to do it in separate judgments each of25 pages, just say I agree, that's all we need to know!
• If any of you insist on dissenting, give us the inside word.
For example: I'm in the minority now but I think I can sway X, Y will shortly be resigning and Z is looking a bit s1ck so my v1ew will be the majority soon.
• Keep it short, pretend you are competing to explain in 25 words or less why the appeal succeeded.
• Point form is desirable and if your judgment could be converted into a short animated film that also would be appreciated.
• Keep it simple. The appeal is dismissed in part, the cross appeal is allowed in part is a bit complex if it is 3 am on the day before the exam.
• Just have two columns: Who's hot and who's not.
• Commentary about the worth of the appeal would be useful and might also serve a deterrent purpose. Tell us what you really think: This was a frivolous appeal and should be struck out, counsel ought to be struck off and the appellants hopefully struck down.
I know you all wanted to be rock stars, explorers or sporting heroes and that you settled for second best, being High Court judges. But you can have it all if you just institute my Nine Steps to Celebrity.
1. Get a voice-over man:
Your Australian High Court-LIVE! Announcing the starting five, at human rights guard, drafted in 1996 from the New South Wales Court of Appeal, last years MVP. His Honour Michael Crusher Kirby (smoke ma chine on and the spotlight on His Honour as he jogs up to the bench waving to the crowd).
2. High Court? a somewhat boring name. Operation Infinite Justice? Been done.
3. Secure a sponsor, running the High Court must be ex pensive. Perhaps some company that is in real need of a PR boost - the AMP Court, the Winfield High Court ...
4. Use fear as a tactic. My predecessors who have delivered this speech quoted aged and lofty authority. I would like to quote Mr Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons. Mr Burns says of his role as owner of a nuclear power plant: 'What use is power if you cannot in still fear in your fellow man?'.
5. Rethink the robes. Sequins are underused in the judiciary. What about masks instead of wigs? Imagine the fear of a corporate appellant if they were faced with a three member masked bench of Karl Marx, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
6. Like our cricket team, put a local on the bench when you come to a regional capital (that will get the crowds in!). Coming to Perth from over yonder without a West Aussie might cause certain elements of our com munity to get out the tar and feathers.
7. Address the real issues, this constitutional malarky is all well and good but the people want to know whether the recent protest in the Caulfield Cup ought to have been upheld and if anyone can stop Eddie McGuire slowly taking over this country.
8. Let in a few more in-person litigants. There is nothing more amusing (disturbing?) than someone who thinks The Castle is a documentary ...
9. And finally, Special Leave. Frankly, its not that special. I'm told only one in 10 applications succeeds, so let's get 10 applicants with their files and race them over an obstacle course. A few walls, some barbed wire and a pride of hungry lions ought to sort out who really wants to appeal.
Brevity and Celebrity, it's not rocket science! My account will be in the mail, please make the cheque out to 'cash'. And now ladies and gentlemen brace yourselves for the intellectual trapeze act and high wire, high brow thrills of a speech by His Honour Justice Kirby.
[*] Simon Freitag is a Perth lawyer with the Aboriginal Legal Service. This is an edited version of Simon Freitag's Toast to the Judiciary from the High Court Dinner held in Perth on 24 October 2001.
© 2003 Simon Freitag