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Letters to the Editor

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District Court Rules

I read Ben Nevells’s letter in LawTalk 860 with interest. Well done Ben!

I suffered the same fate as Ben with some of my filing, and spent the better part of January trying to get my conventionally intituled documents accepted by the Central Processing Unit. I was unsuccessful.

I wrote to them. I told them they were wrong. I told them it made no sense. I asked that they elevate my complaint to the Chief District Court Judge. I referred them to the High Court authority that says “do not reject unless document is really really hopeless”: Te Toki v Pratt (2002) 16 PRNZ 160 (HC).

All to no avail.

The Wellington Ministry of Justice person I wrote to and spoke with was apparently one of the bosses. He can remain nameless. That’s okay. To be fair to him, I sort of detected in my phone calls that he really did see my point but could not do anything other than toe the party line. Anyway, he refused to send my letter of complaint to the Chief District Court Judge as I had asked, and he just plain ignored my High Court authority. He insisted that the ministry had thought long and hard about this, and that it had taken legal advice on the rules and what they should do. All I could say to that was that it must have been pretty rubbish advice from someone who has no clue about what is important and what isn’t, what the new rules were aimed at achieving, how to read a rule fairly largely and liberally to achieve its purpose, and the practicalities and realities of how the courts have worked, like, forever.

But then, like Ben, I succumbed, and changed my intituling to suit the bureaucrats. I am ashamed to admit, I gave in to the terrorists. They got their way. I did it for my client. They did want their proceeding commenced after all.

Thankfully there were no limitation issues relevant to my filing. I hate to think that some poor litigant out there has missed some deadline because of the registry “change in approach” and these “new rules”.

I was starting to think it was just me. Maybe I was over-reacting, maybe I was middle aged, maybe I should just suck it up, maybe I should not rage against the machine.

Then I calmed down and got with other things. I’m sorry, I should not have. I should have kept fighting, kept writing, kept calling … but dealing with the MoJ is sooooo very, very tiring … and you can never win. When has anyone ever won?

Seeing Ben’s letter has stirred me into action again. I will now write with my own experiences to the Rules Committee. I will urge them to act with haste and with concern. The Central Processing Unit is giving the courts a bad name. This is the opposite of “access to justice” isn’t it?

There will be other lawyers out there who feel the same way. We all need to write to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee needs to get more correspondence on this issue than they have had on any other. Ready, steady, go!

Quiz for readers: does an amended statement of claim need full intituling? The rules are silent, but if you want to ensure it gets over the desk, you better put full intituling on that document, otherwise it will be bounced by a pedantic central registry.

An update

Further to my recent rant and rave to you, I hear the little people have won, and the MoJ have backed down. Apparently they now see the error of their ways. I am very much looking forward to a fulsome and contrite apology to the profession being made.

There would have been an upside for my firm had this decision been made earlier.

As it things were, however, I instructed my wonderful template lady to adjust my firm templates to deal with the issue with an optional TICK BOX..

So it is now with some regret I will not be deploying the latest version of our macros that addresses what was going on in a direct manner. 

I will be sending an invoice to the Central Processing Unit in due course. Good templates don’t come cheap.

Julian Long

Complaints against lawyers

I read with interest the letter of Dennis Gates and the response from Chris Moore.

While I do not agree with everything Dennis says, and realising I do not know the detail of his complaints, he raises a few interesting issues.

In America, the right to face one’s accuser in court is enshrined in the sixth amendment (although now somewhat diluted).

Surely where an allegation is made that at least two of these complaints appear to have been made maliciously, and in one, the complainant may even be fictitious, there is a right to know exactly who is making the allegations as that may well impinge on the nature of the defence, which is a right under the Rules of Natural Justice/Bill of Rights?

Further, it seems to me that this may well be a case where Mr Gates has done too good a job for his client(s) so the other side has made complaint simply in order to get him removed, which is probably an attempt to pervert the course of justice if proved. (Has the complainant been warned of this and to get legal advice on the matter?) All the more reason to deal with the matter quickly, decisively and with full and proper information supplied by the complainant, or be dismissed for want of prosecution if that information is not forthcoming.

David Stringer

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