Justice Minister Judith Collins introduced the ‘Judicature Modernisation Bill 2013’ to Parliament on November 27, 2013.
The comprehensive Bill has six parts, the first of which deals with High Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court, appointment of judges to these Courts and the governing rules.
The second part reconstitutes the District Courts as a single court with divisions for a Family Court, Youth Court and Disputes Tribunal. It deals with the appointment of judges to these Courts and the governing rules.
The third part deals with procedures that set out the provisions for Judicial Review of the exercise of a Statutory Power, the proposed or purported exercise of Statutory Power and the failure to exercise a Statutory Power.
Part four provides for award of interest on money claims as compensation for delay in payment of debts and damages.
Part five encourages the use of technology to reduce cost, speed up delivery of service and make information accessible. It also provides for judgements to be made available online.
Part six deals with amendments to other enactments such as the Arbitration Act, Building Societies Act, Companies Act, Contractual Remedies Act, Copyright Act and Employment relations Act, to name a few.
I believe that there are some areas of concern that should be discussed and resolved at the Select Committee.
A mechanism should be put in place to ensure that in trying to reduce cost, technology is not thrust upon everyone. As some of us in the legal fraternity have seen, when it comes to analysing and reading documents thoroughly, a lot of us including some judges, prefer to have hard copies. In fact, when the Bill was introduced to Parliament, almost all of law makers had a hard copy of the Bill for a thorough reading in the ensuing days.
Secondly, not everyone can afford the latest technical gadgets. It is therefore necessary to ensure that Justice remains accessible by all.
Another concern being raised relates to the ‘Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, which aims to allow people with less serious convictions (who have been conviction free for at least seven years), to put their past behind them. However, once the judgements are made available online, it will make the (clean slate) Act obsolete, as the online judgement has the potential to go beyond the jurisdiction of New Zealand, taking away the right to concealment of as per law.
The extensive Bill, covering 1200 pages, will take considerable time for clause-by- clause scrutiny for a thorough analysis.
However, we are sure that the collective wisdom of the lawmakers in Parliament and the Select Committee, will thrash out any anomalies that could impede the fair and equitable judicial system.
The Bill has been praised and supported by all political parties and everyone has acknowledged and praised the work and role of the Law Commission and the Attorney General.
Gurbrinder Aulakh is a Barrister & Solicitor at George Bogiatto. He is also Deputy Chairman, Auckland Regional Migrant Services and member on the boards of many social and community organisations. Mr Aulakh clarifies that the views expressed in the above article are his own and many not represent those of his law firm or those of the organisations with which he is involved.