Reform

…But Wait, There’s More!

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Hi Folks,

It was only last week that I posted on the subject of a sudden and extraordinary rash of long-overdue judicial appointments to the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court after an extended period of apparent stasis.

Well it seems that the avalanche of appointments continues with a further two judges for the Federal Circuit Court and two more judges to the Family Court announced on Friday 22 March 2019.

In the Family Court appointments, Judge Mead will go to the Adelaide registry and Judge Hartnett is destined for Melbourne. Both have been elevated from their positions on the bench of the Federal Circuit Court. In addition, Justice Tree has moved up from the Family Court to the Appeal Division of the Family Court.

The Federal Circuit Court gets replacements for the loss of the two judges (Mead and Hartnett) in the form of Judge Andrew and Judge Kari who both take up their commissions on Monday 25 March 2019. Judge Andrew will fill the vacancy in Townsville (since 8 February when Judge Middleton was re-tasked to Brisbane and Cairns) and Judge Kari will add to the Adelaide registry.

So what’s the LATEST score (as at 22 March 2019)?

Based on this table, it looks like Melbourne has been the big winner!

So, Australia wide, the Family Court has received seven new judges, a dual commission appointment in WA and an Appeals Division Judge in the last six weeks.

Consider that for a moment – this is more appointments than took place in the previous nearly six years (since the appointment of Judge Johns on 29 July 2013).

The Federal Circuit Court ended up with a net gain of only one new judge.

And we mustn’t forget the extra four Federal Court judges either which bring the total of judicial appointments in the Federal Courts to around 20 Federal judges in six weeks! Mr Porter has been a busy A-G hasn’t he?

But wait, there’s more!

On the weekend, 23 March 2019, the Attorney-General announced that the Federal Court’s jurisdiction will be broadened to include corporate crime as part of its response to the Banking Royal Commission. The 2019-20 Budget will allocate $35 million to appoint two judges, 11 support staff and construct new court facilities, relieving the burden off the State Courts for this criminal prosecution.

Where to now with the Federal Circuit and Family Court Bills?

By adding to the workload of the Federal Court with its new corporate criminal jurisdiction, and with no provision in the FCFCA Bills to fund the absorption of the Family Law Appeals Division, the Bills as they stand just became even more infeasible. Further, the Senate Committee Report into the Bills unanimously recommended that the Appeals Division not move from the Family Court but there is currently no indication that these substantial amendments to the Bills have been made and circulated. The Committee web pages don’t show any “Government Response” to the Report either.

Also, the appointment of Justice Tree to the Family Court Appeals Division would tend to indicate that this structure is destined to continue in its current form.

With two days of the Senate sitting next week for the Budget (2 and 3 April 2019), and the remaining week-and-a-bit sitting only for Senate Estimates, I can’t really see how the government might get the FCFCA Bills passed before the election is called (which I’m guessing will be very, very soon after the Budget is delivered) and the government goes into caretaker mode.

Stay tuned folks. It’s likely to get interesting…