The Law Society’s Courthouse Committee monitors and provides a coordinated national response to issues such as court closures and restructuring, modernisation and technology initiatives, and court security/access to courthouses, bearing in mind the needs of all court users.
The Law Society’s Courthouse Committee membership was refreshed and expanded in 2018 to provide better coverage across the regions and closer monitoring of the range of issues impacting on courthouses and court users around New Zealand.
The committee members are Maria Hamilton (Convenor, Hawke’s Bay), Ned Fletcher (Manukau), Iain Hutcheson (Auckland), Prue McGuire (Rotorua), Leona McWilliam (Wellington), Craig Ruane (Christchurch), and Max Winders (Dunedin). The committee monitors and provides a coordinated national response to issues such as court closures and restructuring, modernisation and technology initiatives, and court security/access to courthouses, bearing in mind the needs of all court users.
"The committee’s remit is not limited to addressing issues relating to the physical spaces that operate as courts, but also includes matters that affect access to justice and the administration of justice within those courts (such as AVL and court resourcing). Committee representatives meet regularly with senior Ministry officials to raise resolve current courthouse issues," says former committee convenor Mark Wilton.
"Courthouse issues are generally managed locally in the first instance, with input from New Zealand Law Society branches and local court managers. New Zealand Law Society branches – and practitioners across the country – are encouraged to get in touch with the Courthouse Committee [contact details are provided below] if there are any issues of potentially national significance, or where a co-ordinated national response is appropriate."
To give an idea of the committee’s recent work, in 2018 the committee was instrumental in securing scheduled regional admission ceremonies in Nelson, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North and Whanganui.
The committee has also assisted the Canterbury Westland branch of the Law Society on the issue of Police conduct in the Christchurch Justice precinct, including drafting correspondence to key stakeholders.
The committee is liaising with the Marlborough Law Society branch in relation to the problem of delayed bail hearings in Blenheim; the issue has been raised with the ministry and the Law Society understands a procedure to ameliorate delays is being worked on.
The committee is also working with the Taranaki branch of the Law Society in relation to local concerns about Family Court matters being dealt with outside the purpose-built Family Court rooms. This work has included raising concerns with the Ministry, in addition to supporting the Taranaki branch to address bail/arrest issues at the local level.
Practitioners should raise any courthouse concerns/problems with their local branch manager/president in the first instance. If the issue appears significant, or you’d like to check whether it is a ‘national’ issue, please contact Emily Sutton, law reform adviser to the Courthouse Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 04 463 2978.