Australian Bar Association rejects criticisms of Federal Court judges

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The maxim states that justice delayed is justice denied. According to one controversial study, however, some judges on the Federal Court of Australia don’t take this to heart. Data from a study commissioned by The Australian Financial Review showed that more than half of Federal Court judges take more than a year to complete a judgment.

However, the Australian Bar Association (ABA) sharply criticised the methodology of the study as portraying the process of justice in too simplistic terms. “It is the quality of a judgment that delivers justice to the parties and provides public confidence in a court,” said Noel Hutley SC, the president of ABA. “The jurisdiction of the Federal Court brings before its judges very complex matters in which time is often necessary to provide that quality of judgment.”

The Victorian Bar also rejected the study, characterising it as misconceived. “The productivity of judges and the quality of justice dispensed in the Federal Court, or for that matter any court, cannot be evaluated by that methodology,” said Dr Matt Collins QC, president of the Victorian Bar. "The analysis takes no account of qualitative measures, such as the nature, complexity or duration of the cases heard by judges, or the number of witnesses and documents tendered in evidence. Nor does it take into account the number of cases settled without trial, or time spent sitting on appeal cases. While judges must expect public scrutiny of their work, on this occasion, hard-working judges of the Federal Court have been unjustifiably criticized.”

The Federal Court did not participate in the study, with a spokesman claiming that the analysis lacked utility and was fundamentally flawed for the purpose identified.

“The Financial Review's approach is a simplistic and limited numerical analysis that fails to provide any meaningful insight into the quantitative and qualitative breadth and nature of the work of the court as an institution,” said a court spokesman.

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