Certainty in court sitting hours

Wed Nov 05 2014
By President Jane Needham SC

I have raised the issue of certainty in relation to court sitting hours with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the Hon Tom Bathurst AC. Specifically, I have noted the difficulties that arise when there is a lack of certainty around sitting hours for those members with carer’s responsibilities.

The adoption of a formal protocol could have the potential to fetter judicial discretion in relation to case management, however, the chief justice has indicated that he is prepared to suggest the following to judges of the Supreme Court:

  1. That the parties be notified at the earliest possible time of a proposal to commence proceedings any time before 9.30 am or to sit beyond 4.30 pm in the case of divisions or 4.45 pm in the case of the Court of Appeal.

  2. If possible, 24 hours’ notice be given of a proposal for an early start date and notice of extended sitting hours be given no later than prior to the luncheon adjournment on the day it is proposed to sit the extended hours.

  3. In considering whether or not to set extended hours, it is relevant to consider the family or other carer responsibilities of the practitioner.

These suggestions will not apply to bail applications or applications in the Duty Judge list. The suggestions listed above are for guidance only, and are not binding.

I am most grateful to Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC, and the judges of the Supreme Court, for their willingness to assist the members of the Bar Association.

Jane Needham SC
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