Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ombudsman to go ahead despite law societies' protest

Mr. Robert McClelland
Federal Attorney-General

Dear Attorney General,

We refer to the reports below for your information.

We fully support the Council of Australian Governments for the setting up of a national ombudsman to regulate the profession.

The case of ''Caesar judging Caesar'' or "police investigate police" should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

Yours respectfully,

Eddie Hwang
Unity Party WA
Ph/Fax: 61 893681884
Date: 21-Jan-2010.
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Ombudsman to go ahead despite law societies' protest
JOEL GIBSON - January 21, 2010
Only lawyers have the expertise to investigate other lawyers for alleged misconduct, their professional associations say, and they have asked the Federal Government to reconsider its plan for a national ombudsman to regulate the profession.

A Fed. Attorney General would be expensive and slow, they argue, and would not be an ombudsman in the true sense of the word.

But the state and federal governments are standing firm, saying confidence in the profession will only improve when lawyers stop investigating their own.

As national regulations are being drafted this month, the chiefs of all state and territory law societies have argued in a submission to a Federal Government taskforce that consumers will lose out if lawyers are stripped of self-regulation.

In NSW misconduct complaints are investigated by the Law Society with the oversight of the Legal Services Commissioner.

Last year one in nine solicitors was the subject of a complaint but 83 per cent of conduct complaints were dismissed, which the law societies say is evidence that ''despite claims to the contrary, there are very few complaints of substance about members of the legal profession''.

Of the complaints investigated by the NSW Law Society in the past five years, 250 have been referred to the Legal Services Commissioner for review, which the law societies argue is evidence of satisfaction at their handling of investigations.

''As far as any of us is aware, and combined our experience of the complaint processes across Australia is very substantial, there is no systemic failure with the current … processes. Claims to the contrary are unjustified,'' the law society chiefs say.

They have also denied any need for increased protections against lawyers who overcharge.

The negotiations over new national rules for lawyers are heating up in the lead-up to a May deadline set by the Council of Australian Governments.

Consumer advocates say lawyers are protecting their own turf and are decades behind other industries and professions in accepting independent oversight.

The federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has described the self-regulation of lawyers as ''Caesar judging Caesar''.

High Court judge criticises courts 'nightmare'
Article from: - SEAN FEWSTER - July 30, 2009 12:01am
JUSTICE is beyond the reach of ordinary Australians because they cannot afford the "nightmare" of going to court, a former High Court judge says.

Michael Kirby – who retired from the bench in February – says more cases should be resolved out of court so clients can speak for themselves, instead of having lawyers "fight it out".

He said mediation before trials would help ensure "normal citizens" had their cases dealt with quickly and inexpensively, sparing them "tremendous pressure, strain and emotional anxiety".

Mr Kirby yesterday told an arbitration conference in Adelaide that Australia's legal system was proud, uncorrupted and functioned "like a Rolls-Royce".

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