Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Champion of the Oppressed

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

If Angela Shanahan is a wrong not even Superman can right, who's left to deal with Janet Albrechtsen? Having already given us hero judges, Janet today introduces us to another curiosity from the judicial bestiary:

... what Tennyson called the "wilderness of the single instance" judge.

The object of Janet's indignation is Justice Geoffrey Eames, the Victorian Judge whose decision in the Rolah McCabe case was recently overturned by Victoria's Court of Appeal. There's been a lot of commentary around Ozblogistan about this decision. Here is an excerpt from one of the more sensitive ones:

Her family has lost her. And their major memory of her last moments with them is of a dying woman playing the innocent in a court room. Surely she was made of stronger stuff than that.

Besides Eames, the media who reported his original decision with such hoop-la come in for a fair bit of stick from Janet:

HAD the media read Eames's judgment, it would have found that his findings against Clayton Utz were based on a mixture of incorrect findings and an unerring belief that advice Clayton Utz gave to BAT in 1985 and 1990 was for the purpose of "devising a strategy" – Eames repeats these conspiratorial words over and over again – for the destruction of documents.

Not only that, but infatuated with the David vs Goliath romance of the victimised smoker taking on the big bad tobacco companies and their lawyers and winning, the media dismissed as "self-serving" law firm Clayton Utz' denial of wrong-doing. Well, the media would, wouldn't they? But, in the end justice prevailed:

... the Court of Appeal vindicated the lawyers, left the media dupes looking like, well, dupes and delivered a few unspoken lessons on the justice system.

A short footnote to the article makes it clear that Janet is well placed to offer insightful and objective comment on this case: her husband is a partner of the law firm that acted for Clayton Utz senior partner Brian Wilson.

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