The Chief High Court Judge and Chief District Court Judge have announced they will hold meetings for members of the legal profession at courts around the country next year to discuss concerns about workloads in the criminal and civil courts.
In a letter to the profession released on Thursday 17 December the Chief High Court Judge and Chief District Court Judge responded to concerns raised by the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa, Auckland District Law Society and the New Zealand Bar Association about workloads and intensive scheduling of cases to clear backlogs exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The Law Society welcomes the acknowledgment from Her Honour Justice Thomas and His Honour Judge Taumaunu about the impact of current court scheduling practices on practitioners’ workloads and wellbeing.
As the regulator of the profession, Practising Well and lawyers’ wellbeing are priorities for the Law Society. We are acutely aware of the impact the current backlogs are having and want to contribute to proposed initiatives to address them, such as through the new District Court Criminal Process and Backlog Improvement Programme.
At the same time, we are also mindful of the importance of achieving a balance between progressing cases in a timely manner and allowing adequate preparation time so that members of the profession, and others in the justice system, do not risk suffering from burnout.
The invitation to discuss concerns directly with practitioners via a series of meetings in the main centres of both the District and High Court civil and criminal jurisdictions in early 2021, comes after a recent meeting of the Professions Liaison Group.
The monthly meetings are chaired by the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge with representatives from relevant organisations representing members of the profession. They were established during the Covid-19 lockdown with attendees including the Law Society, the New Zealand Bar Association, Auckland District Law Society, Defence Lawyers Association NZ, Criminal Bar Association, Te Hunga Rōia Māori, the Pacific Lawyers Association, the Ministry of Justice and Crown Law.
The meetings have provided a unique opportunity to collaboratively discuss issues between the profession and the judiciary and the Law Society is grateful for the opportunity to engage at this level.
It’s also pleasing to see in the most recent correspondence the Judges paying tribute to the increased cooperation and constructive engagement with the profession that has developed through 2020. The Law Society looks forward to continuing that engagement throughout 2021.
Further details of the meetings with members of the profession will be provided by the judiciary in the new year.