I’ve blogged about the other sort of lawyers many times, the only kind that 99% of Australians come across, and far too often (more than a 100,000 new families every year – half a million Australians, plus extended family, friends and work colleagues). ”Real” law firms don’t “do” family law. Few “real” law firms do criminal law either. And every one of these highly skilled, highly ethical “real” lawyers knows that “family lawyers are [bullies and thugs and] not real lawyers anyway.”
These 30 firms include my old law firm, Minter Ellison (1994 – 1999), which has been the number one law firm in Australia (and one of the biggest and best in the world) for more than a decade. They also include my first law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth (1989 – 1994), another world beating international Australian law firm, which has been a “top ten” Australian law firm for more than a century.
I have written to all of these firms this week asking them to pledge support for my political and law reform campaigns. I have asked for 3 kinds of support:
- campaign donations;
- lobbying the Victorian and Australian Governments (both the parliaments, but also importantly the bureaucracies and the judiciaries) for urgent legal and political reforms; and
- to give pro bono support (make lawyer and para-legal resources of the firm available) so that I can initiate urgent cases (including test cases) – such as:
- to remove the UNdignified, UNconstitutional and UN (international law) violating rule in D’Orta-Ekenaike, a uniquely Australian anomoly of the laws of lawyering, whereby Australia is the only nation in the world where it is illegal for citizens to sue (Australian) lawyers who are negligent “and worse” in the lawyers workplace (namely, the court room);
- to initiate tens of billions of dollars worth of “Rocher claims” for 35 years of Australian families who have suffered, and who continue to die at the rate of over a dozen a day, from the genocidal industries of corrupted lawyers and corrupted government known as the Australian Family Law Courts.
I am unable to predict how many of these prestigious law firms will take up the challenge to demonstrate that they are Champions for Change (and agents for justice, democracy, and the principle of “one law for all”).
Certainly these prestigious law firms have little if anything to gain from the shameful D’Orta-Ekenaike lawyers only law created as recently as 2004 that exempts Australian litigation lawyers (alone) from being legally liable to compensate victims of their professional negligence. And many trumpet themselves as “champions of the underdog” and crusaders for “justice”, including boasting substantial “pro bono” and “public benefit” contributions of lawyer time and effort to worthwhile causes without being paid for their services. So I am hoping for an enlightened response.
I will in subsequent blogs provide an update of the identities of these, our leading Australian (non-family law, non-criminal law, non-domestic conveyancing) law firms who truly and deservedly rank amongst the global elite of legal, corporate and government advisory firms. And I will of course blog the responses that they give to my call for pledges of support for these necessary political and legal reforms.
For now, below is a composite of my fairly standard letter to each of these firms. Please be forgiving of any loss of formatting in the translation from “word” to “wordpress”.
And may the forces of these firms be with us.
James Johnson, Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor
From The Office of
Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor
mail: PO Box 6137 Point Cook
Victoria Australia 3030
sms: +61 (0)401 865 914 (text only)
Tuesday 1 May 2012
|To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. – Abraham Lincoln
And by Registered Mail
PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT FOR MEANINGFUL AND NECESSARY LEGAL AND PROFESSIONAL REFORMS: BECOME A CHAMPION FOR CHANGE – NOT A SILENT COLABORATOR
I am writing to ask your firm to pledge support for meaningful and necessary legal and professional reforms.
You can give your support in any or all of the 3 ways I have listed below. Or maybe you can think of more, better ways.
You can download my ‘about’, ‘legal credentials’ and ‘political pledge’ pages from my WordPress blog. But you probably already know me from the years I served as Chairman of the Law of Institute of Victoria‘s GST Taskforce (1998 – 2001) and on the Legal Practitioners Liability Committee‘s Panel of GST Experts (1999 – 2002). And you may remember my (inaugural) monthly Tax Issues column which ran in the Law Institute Journal from 1998 to 2003.
I certainly came to know many members of your firm, and to hold you all in the highest of regards, during my 6 years apiece with top tier (international) Australian law firms Corrs Chambers Westgarth (1989 – 1994) and Minter Ellison (1994 – 1999), and during the decade (1999 – 2008) that I headed my own corporate and government law practice.
Become a Champion for Change – Don’t be a Silent Collaborator
It is no secret that the Australian legal profession, the judiciary, the judicial branches of government are in deep crisis.
But you and your colleagues shine, as one of Australia’s leading examples of technically and ethically excellent law firms. That is why I have chose your firm to selectively brief on the nature of this crisis and my resolve to solve it.
I have blogged a number of reports on this crisis on my WordPress blog and via my microblog at twitter (combined global circulation over 40,000). I will be regularly blogging just how many of Australia’s leading law firms take up my challenge, choose to become champions for change, and chose to support me in making these reforms history. The flip-side? I will also be blogging on how many such firms (hopefully none) choose to sit it out – as silent collaborators.
A legal profession, a legal system, a judicial branch of government, in deep crisis
It is no secret that the standing and reputation of the Australian legal profession has suffered greatly over the past decade. And nowhere is this more so than in Victoria. The gross decline in ethics and professional standards, and the predatory behaviours of certain classes of lawyers (certain classes of “litigators”, predominantly those who “specialise” in family law matters) have in the eyes of many Australian’s greatly reduced the standings of all lawyers.
This is especially unfair for lawyers such as ourselves, and our firms, who deservedly rank, in global terms, among some of the most able and widely sought-after corporate and government legal advisory firms in the world.
And at the same time, it is no secret that our state legal industry regulators add to the problems by openly misusing its consumer protection powers to protect ‘dumb and evil, .. almost psychopathic” lawyers as a furiously betrayed, ex- Victorian Legal Ombudswoman Kate Hamond (one of our new Assistant Legal Licensing Commissioners) famously put it in 2006. Again, nowhere is this more so than in Victoria.
And the less said regarding those who supposedly sit at the pinnacle of our legal profession – our judiciary, the judicial branches of government in Australia – the better.
You can’t sue me – I’m an Australian litigation lawyer
Yes, the less said regarding those who supposedly sit at the pinnacle of our legal profession, the better. This is especially so since that infamous 6:1 decision of the High Court of Australia in 2005 (Kirby J dissenting) to the effect that Australian litigation lawyers (barristers AND solicitors are the only Australians, and the only lawyers in the world that are not legally liable for negligence in the workplace (the court room). In D’Orta Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid [sic] and another (2005) 223 CLR 1, over the top of lone dissenter, Justice Michael Kirby‘s most powerful of many such protests that such a law is unconstitutional and violates the rule of law, the 6:1 majority refused to follow in the compelling footsteps of a 15:0 decision of the House of Lords in 2000 (Arthur J S Hall v Simons  1 AC 615), that put English barristers under the same workplace negligence laws as all other Brits and all other lawyers, everywhere in the world.
Appallingly, the 6:1 Australian High Court majority judges justified this “Animal Farm” law (and justified their decision to expand it four to five times larger) on the grounds that 60 million UK citizens “now” have human rights that they never had before (by virtue of having become part of the the European Union system of laws in the 1990s). It seems – thank God and the Queen – in the judgement of these 6 unrepresentative, unelected governmen and governwomen, 22 million Australian citizens continue to have no such human rights, rights to constitutional rule or “one [rule of] law for all”.
Did the 6:1 majority in D’Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid mean to snuff out Magna Carta of 1215 and its noble predecessors? And did they mean to rule that neither the Magna Carta of 125 nor the English Bill of Rights of 1688-89 never, or do no more, apply to Australians? [Lest we forget that King William's and Queen Mary's signatures ratifying the English Bill of Rights of 1688-89 are the sole legal basis on which the legitimacy of the current House of Windsor prevails as the ruling (query, shambolic?) monarchy, in the United Kingdom and, enduring post-1974 (severally) for Australia). That makes the 22M of us uniquely underprivileged, amongst all of 750M total citizens of the glorious Commonwealth of (British) Nations)? Or did their Honours simply forget, or deliberately choose, not to apply them?
D'Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid was a shameful, multimillion dollar, publicly-funded, “lawyers picnic” where the lawyers got to have their cake and eat it too. It was a publicly-funded gorge-fest, a grossly lop-sided affair. It was a bottomless guarantee to a bottomless supply of cakes in the future too. The judicial branch of the Australian Government voted 6:1 in favor of violating Australia's UN and international legal and treaty obligations, and 800 years of British human rights heritage, not just to retain an improper 80 year old barrister's legal licence to commit professional negligence, but to extend it (in an unlikely to be copied, world first , against the trend of achievements in all other(?) civilised countries) by for the first time granting the same 'above the law' status to Australian litigation solicitors as well.
And of course lurking within such an abominable legal exemption and within the environs of such shabby lawyer built-owned-operated-(pseudo)oversighted law courts and other government agencies, there is unbounded scope for unethical, unregulated and undaunted “dumb and evil ... almost psychopathic” lawyers to cloak lawyer mischiefs, including the most heinous of frauds and thefts, by dressing them down as mere 'negligences' (however so life crushing) of the sorts that are judicially sanctioned, government protected and allowed through government sponsorship to flourish under this vile (and internationally damnable) rule of lawyer privilege and elitism.
'Barristers not up to the job' / 'Lawyers let you down'
Small wonder that former Supreme Court Justice George Hampel QC has publicly complained of 'Barristers not [being] up to the job‘. Small wonder that then Australian Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland achieved headlines with home truths such as “Lawyers let you down.” Or that as recently as a few weeks ago, Justice Stephen Bell felt it necessary to apologise at great length (a 300 plus paragraph apology: Goddard Elliott (a firm) v Fritsch  VSC 87 (14 March 2012) ) in the Victorian Supreme Court for why his hands were tied by that 2004 High Court of Australia and its damnable rule in D’Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid, which preventing him from granting justice and damages due to a (now) twice suffering victim of unethical, grossly negligent and predatory (family law) lawyering.
A call for action and support – Become a Champion for Change, NOT a silent collaborator
Obviously mine is one of many high powered voices of reason, of justice, of democracy, of human rights, and of rule of law, that is seeking to change all of this.
But I, and others like me who speak out about this corruption at the intersection of the legal profession and all three branches of government, we who speak out without fear, without self-interest, we need your support.
I ask you support me, in any, and hopefully all three, of the following ways.
As you will see from my letterhead, I am campaigning for election to the Australian House of Representatives for my own long-neglected electorate of Lalor, once upon a time the “traditionally safe[st] Labor seat” in Victoria. The current ALP-installed Member for Lalor, Ms Julia Gillard, has of course achieved shameful notorieties in recent years for staggering numbers of all the wrong sorts of reasons.
I ask you to make an unrestricted donation to my political campaign fund. I suggest a $10,000 donation. This is the equivalent of about a day’s fees for a lawyer of your standing. If your firm cannot afford a donation of $10,000, then I ask that you to donate whatever amount your firm can afford.
Use your firm’s small change to become a champion for big change – don’t be a silent collaborator.
- During 2008 and 2009, and especially since the Baillieu Liberal administration came into power in Victoria in 2010, I have been lobbying Premier (Baillieu) to abolish the failed “Godfather in regulator’s clothing” that is Victoria’s office of the Legal Services Commissioner (both under the disgraced inaugural LSC, Ms Victoria Marles and now under the equally-if-not-more-so disgraceful ex-Supreme Court CEO, Michael McGarvie), and to re-enact the former Kennett Liberal administration’s independent and pro-consumer Victorian Legal Ombudsman Scheme. There are few words that can properly describes the failure of the Brumby-Hulls Labor administration to abolish the failed office of the Legal Services Commissioner following the Victorian State Ombudsman’s damning 2009 Annual Report to Parliament – and none of them are civilised.
Become a champion for change, rather than a silent collaborator. I ask you to write to Premier Baillieu (cc myself) voicing your advocacy to get the ball rolling on these urgent “back to the past” reforms.
- I have a number of watching briefs in legal matters that are some of the worst and most shameful combinations of barratry, champetry and maintenance imaginable – even to hardy souls like ourselves. These shocking examples of lawyer misconduct and fraud lay in the realm of outright blackmail and extortion. They are the sorts of ‘loaded writ’ highwayman behaviour that would appal even the most well-seasoned readers of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. Evidence-wise, as individual cases or via class or consolidated actions, they offer ideal factual matrices to petition the High Court of Australia to reconsider and abolish the abominable rule in D’Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid. Potential damages claim in each case? (Conservatively) in the range of $10,000,000 to $100,000,000 – or more.
Become a champion for change, rather than a silent collaborator. I ask your firm to make its resources available, as part of your annual pro bono commitments and/or (subject to negotiation) on ‘no-win-no-fee’ basis, in order to commence some or all of these worthy public interest legal actions.
I stress that it is our legal professional reputations (yours, mine and our fine, high achieving colleagues) that are unfairly suffering, along with public faith in and perception of the legal profession. The majority of us hard working and ethical and competent lawyers (solicitors AND barristers) are suffering jointly with and for the scandalous unethical, incompetent and predatory behaviours of the few pockets of lawyers (the “frequent flyers” as equally shameful long-term New South Wales Legal Services Commissioner Steve Marks recently labelled them). Instead of protecting the public and protecting our reputations, these “frequent flyers” are aided and abetted by a “God father in regulator’s clothing” regulatory regime and hidden behind an abominable exemption from normal workplace negligence rules that is available only to litigators. Normal workplace negligence laws apply to all of us non-litigation lawyers the same as all other Australian citizens, professionals and tradesmen and all lawyers (including litigators) everywhere else in the world.
As Justice Michael Kirby protested in D’Orta-Ekenaike v Victoria Legal Aid and Justice Kevin Bell protested more recently in Goddard Elliott (a firm) v Fritsch  VSC 87 (14 March 2012), the rule of law is too precious for lawyers to be creating special ‘above the law’ statuses for ourselves, and especially for such an unmeritorious subculture of miscreant litigation lawyers who exploit, hide and flourish under it.
Australian litigation lawyers (barristers and solicitors) should not be the only Australians and should not be the only lawyers in the world who are not legally liable, and cannot be sued, for workplace (court room) negligence.
The long list of modern and ancient constitutional rules, rules of law, State, Federal, International, parliamentary and (other) judicial laws that the rule in D’Orta-Ekenaike and Goddard Elliott violate (going as far back as the Old Testament, Moses, and the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy) – the list is unlimited and damning of the legal profession, and the judicial and all branches of government, for champeting and maintaining such a law.
Where to from here?
No doubt you have sufficient corporate authority to make an immediate financial donation of such small change as $10,000. No doubt we can anticipate of your colleagues overwhelming support for the broader, urgent reforms.
On the broader issues of support (lobbying the Premier, making your firm’s litigation resources available, as examples), I expect you will want to discuss the extent of your engagement and support, as a firm, before actioning them. Obviously the sooner the top tier legal firms heed this call to action and give your support, the better off all Australian’s will be. The sooner we will being to repair the public damage being done by the wilder elements of our profession.
I thank you in anticipation of your full and affirmative support. In the interim whilst you are deliberating your response to this request, I ask that you show the usual professional courtesy by kindly acknowledging receipt of this letter and advising me of the likely timeframe and process involved (and any other thoughts or ideas for support you might have) while you are considering my requests for broader, and long-term support.
It will be to the further and deepening discredit of our once noble legal profession if fine upstanding lawyers and law firms such as ours, if men and women of laws and integrity such as ourselves, instead of showing leadership on these crises stand mute and do nothing.
Now that we are aware of the corruption and what has to be done to curb it, silently collaborating with the corrupt status quo is not an option. Though we are not responsible for the corruption, we must take responsibility to solve it and to make sure that it does not grow back.
I would welcome an invitation to speak with you, to address you and your partners and/or a broader or general selection of members of your firm, to discuss what we ‘the good guys” can do and should do, collectively and actively, to undo the harms presently being done. I will raise this idea with you again in my next letter to you – though I fully anticipate that we will speak on these issues well before I write to you again later this month.
Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor
(in the) Australian House of Representatives
Constitutional Human Rights Advocate
Solicitor and Barrister of the High Court of Australia
(Celebrating 20 Years of Legal Practice 1990 – 2010)