Law Society making crap up

February 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Law Society has been complaining to media that its concerns about Parliament’s use of urgency have been ignored by the government in its report to the UN .

Austin Forbes said:

“No reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society’s rule of law concerns”  

In Law Talk, the NZLS Committee members Andrew Butler, Joss Opie and Peter Barnett also complained that the government had failed to highlight the issues they had raised around the rule of law:

“Disappointingly, the Law Society’s concerns were not addressed in the final report. For example, no reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society’s rule of law concerns.” 

“Part of the means by which that improvement can occur is through the quality of the process of talking about human rights issues. While the Government is, of course, entitled to disagree with the Law Society’s views, recognising those views, engaging with them, and setting out the Government’s position on them would improve the quality of the domestic and international conversation.”

So does this mean that the Government has been trying to cover up the Law Society’s criticisms? Well, no. The Law Society itself says:

“The UPR process provides for input by and consultation with non-governamental organisations. As part of this, on 17 June 2013 the New Zealand Law Society submitted a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Council.”

This is very important. The UNHRC already had a copy of their report and its concerns. Their concerns weren’t ignored by the New Zealand government – they were ignored by the United Nations. The Government responds to queries raised by member states after they have read all the submission from NGOs.

A reader has e-mailed an explanation:

 “The process for these reports is that submissions to the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, including the NZLS shadow report and other matters raised, are summarised by OHCHR in the stakeholder report. Then it’s up to the members of the HRC to raise or not raise those matters through the question and/or recommendation procedure. In this case – of all the criticisms they chose to raise – the NZLS’s rule of law concerns didn’t interest the Council members enough to raise the matter once during their questions.”

So the Law Society’s shadow report was provided to the UN directly and summarised by the High Commission to the Council in preparation for New Zealand’s statement. Out of the 105 individual points raised by council members during New Zealand’s appearance, none were following up the Law Society’s shadow report.

Chris Finlayson was understandably unimpressed with the Law Society’s comments about being ignored:

“The Law Society has an important role to play in contributing to the creation of quality legislation,” he said in a statement.

“But it diminishes its standing by continually crying wolf over non-existent human rights issues that really just reflect the personal taste of some of its members.”

Given the rest of the advice that the members of the Council gave New Zealand, I think if there had been any human rights issues in the Law Society’s report, they would have been seized on eagerly. It is rather sad that the Law Society takes a cheap shot at the Government when the ones they should be blaming is themselves for writing a submission so lacking in effectiveness that they couldn’t get a single member of 47 strong UN Human Rights Council to think their issues were worth raising.

 

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17 Responses to “Law Society making crap up”

  1. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Isn’t the pathetic Geoffrey Palmer involved here?

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  2. hj (7,066 comments) says:

    Has anyone read the horrors of prison life in the 1800’s that lead Howard to campaign for prison reform? What would he think of todays clones?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard_(prison_reformer)

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  3. Nostalgia-NZ (5,281 comments) says:

    Hardly a ‘cheap shot,’ particularly taking into account the many years long squeeze on legal aid, probably just more of the same.

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  4. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    Hmm, when it came to legal aid, Nostalgia, the Law Society were about as much use as a wet bus ticket.

    Anyway, when the Bill of Rights says that it is able to be overridden can we really complain when Parliament decides one of its objectives is more important?

    To be honest, none of the Law Society’s criticisms really concern me.

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  5. David Garrett (7,548 comments) says:

    My first serious brush with the Law Society – for which they got their vengeance, in spades – was when the Three Strikes Law was making its way through parliament.

    The Society – or someone in it – wrote a lengthy submission to the Law and Order Select Committee which was considering the Bill. The submission was strongly opposed to 3S on policy grounds, not on grounds of lack of practicality or problems with its administration. That was just the beginning.

    Quite apart from the fact that they had no mandate to so submit on behalf of all or even the majority of lawyers, the submission itself was woeful: poorly researched and written, and presented by someone who clearly had no real knowledge of the subject. That man is still a Law Society Wallah to this day. But they sure got their revenge on me: on 17 September 2010 – the day I resigned from the ACT caucus – the Society began an investigation into me…they didn’t bother to wait for a complaint!

    A woeful and vindictive outfit.

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  6. Nostalgia-NZ (5,281 comments) says:

    That’s disappointing F E Smith, because adequate legal representation is certainly a BORA issue. I don’t think DPF pointing out that the LS made their own submission means that the Government therefore didn’t need to either respond or specifically mention in its own report to the UN – whether it agreed and because it plainly didn’t, why not – which is really the LS complaint. Seems like a ‘cold war’ going on between Government and Lawyers even though the Government must be by far the biggest employer of Lawyers directly and indirectly.

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  7. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    even though the Government must be by far the biggest employer of Lawyers directly and indirectly.

    Well, it is certainly the biggest criminal defence firm in the country!

    DG, not much more I can add to your story other than to say “I hear you!”.  I am just glad that you remain a professional colleague.

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  8. David Garrett (7,548 comments) says:

    FES: thank you very much for that…We have never met (so far as I know) but you would perhaps be surprised by the number of the brethren who have said I got a lot more than I deserved from the Old Boys Club…I could add a lot more, but I’m sure there are little sneaks here who would go running to the teacher…

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  9. davidp (3,588 comments) says:

    NZ is a democratic country with extremely high standards of human rights. If someone… anyone… has concerns about human rights then they can raise those concerns with the people of NZ. The news media will report them, politicians may respond directly or implicitly via inaction, and voters are able to make their feelings known via the ballot box.

    So it shits me out that all these NGOs and green groups are running off to the UN to squeal about their hobby horses. It’s like they’ve decided that if the people of NZ have ignored them or disagree with them, then they’re going to “tell on” us in the hopes that we’ll be reprimanded. That would be a pretty sad thing if a seven year old was dobbing us in to their teacher. But it is even more reprehensible when they’re trying to do an end run around the democratic system, and where the people they’re reporting us to represent a number of really awful anti-democratic human rights-abusing countries.

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  10. Akld Commercial Lawyer (166 comments) says:

    From a commercial lawyer’s viewpoint, the Law Soc committees seem to be made up of members of the profession who are prepared to find some time in their business working lives to comment on matters within their area of expertise. Naturally this does tend to attract folk who are truly passionate about a subject. As a non-expert, I often find some of the published literature and burgeoning litigation that hinges on fine-grained debates about breaches of rights that most of us would struggle to see as worthy of debate – baffling. Sometimes the complainant might be better served with a direction to get to get over themselves.

    Nonetheless, without those who are prepared to put in the time and effort and, often, paddle against the prevailing current, we would all be a little bit worse off.

    And I find myself applauding some things the current A-G has said and scratching my head about others. Ultimately, as a political office holder, he and other members of Cabinet have to make the sort of calls that enable the business of Govt to proceed. This means preferring one argument to others. I am reliant on subject experts such as FES to tell me that the changes to the Legal Aid system create more problems than they solve. Similarly, feedback from colleagues who practice in the family law arena lead me to conclude that we will soon be faced with having to un-do some of what is occurring there as some sort of unfortunate experiment. Whilst neither of these topics were directly under the purview of Finlayson, hopefully, he will get another term and having dealt with the bulk of the Treaty settlements – will have the time and headspace to revisit some of these issues.

    FES notes above that BORA says that it can be overridden in some cases – and so it must or the Govt of the day would find itself stranded on a shoal. This assumes that the Govt of the day will implement things that are in the best interests of the majority (or face blow-back at the ballot box) and not have us spiral into some sort of totalitarian regime.

    Finally, whilst there is an element of course you would say that, I think that the Law Soc’s track record is pretty good. Sometimes it finds itself on a hiding to nothing and at other times appears a bit too screechy in its protestations. But no-one is on the right side of the ledger at every turn. In the commercial arena, it often disagrees with Govt initiatives, but the working relationship is such that the parties often roll their sleeves up and thrash out a workable solution. And a bit like the police force, it can be said to be pretty tough on its own members if they stray (although I would have to say that there are a small no of practitioners who are only now the subject of disciplinary matters – and who should have been dealt to quite some time ago). I am not convinced that they are “clubbish” any more than, say, the judiciary. It is a small country and a smallish profession and when you have been at the coalface for a couple of decades or so – you not only have a pretty good idea of what are acceptable tolerances but also those who you can work with vs. those with whom you must be a little wary. Enough.

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  11. Liberty (271 comments) says:

    Where was the Law Society’s . When Clark and her minions run roughshod over our democratic rights by
    pillaging $800,000. Then legalizing the dirty deed in so doing also stop the Clark v Darnton case .
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2006/06/darnton_vs_clark.html
    http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/moral-victory-for-darnton-over-pledge-card/

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  12. Graeme Edgeler (3,290 comments) says:

    Where was the Law Society’s . When Clark and her minions run roughshod over our democratic rights by
    pillaging $800,000.

    The Law Society was certainly strongly opposed to the Electoral Finance Bill. And they have certainly complained about the overuse of urgency; I don’t recall specific comment about the validating legislation, but don’t rule it out.

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  13. tvb (4,512 comments) says:

    The real human rights issue in NZ is the changes to legal aid which sees the STATE directly representing defendants rather than the independent bar. The Law Society were SILENT on this issue. As the AG said this report on the use of urgency of all things is very feeble. The legislation concerned had been through a select committee, the debates were broadcast LIVE where on earth is the human rights issue.

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  14. alex Masterley (1,523 comments) says:

    I read with interest what Auckland Commercial Lawyer says regarding the NZLS.

    He is on the button.

    I was until the beginning of this decade involved as a volunteer with ADLS committees and was a member of the council of the ADLS. Most of what I did was practical stuff like organising the odd function, running libraries and the like and not the pointy headed stuff that committees such as the public issues committee produced.

    We had a scepticism about the worth of NZLS. Some of what comes out of Wellington where the secretariat is based has merit, some things, well I and my colleagues just shake our heads and go what the?

    I agree with the points about criminal legal aid and family legal aid. There are now self represented litigants clogging up the system and slowing things down. This issue is not only affecting NZ however. The UK is leading the way in cuts and my fear is that NZ will follow, with the result that the courts will be clogged with cases and justice will be available only for those who can afford it.

    ACL’s comment about the disciplinary matters is interesting. The Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 has imported a disciplinary system that is streets ahead of the arcane and obtuse system under the 1982 act. That means some of the rogues are being dealt with. Recently for example a Mr Orlov was struck off after a lengthy disciplinary process which started in 2008. Mr Orlov fought tooth and nail to avoid a final determination. There are others in his category who fight the process as if it were a scorched earth campaign. Unfortunately that does those people at the end.

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  15. wikiriwhis business (4,119 comments) says:

    If the law society can’t get anywhere against govt corruption how can anyone else ?

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  16. wikiriwhis business (4,119 comments) says:

    “NZ is a democratic country with extremely high standards of human rights. ‘

    Pfff…until National signs the TPP

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  17. corrigenda (142 comments) says:

    ” If the law society can’t get anywhere against govt corruption how can anyone else ?” How can the Law Society do anything until it weeds out it’s own corrupt members?

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