Saturday, March 12, 2005

Oh Nooooooooooooo

NEW laws allowing people to sue their negligent lawyers will be proposed at a national meeting of attorneys-general next week.

In a spirited attack on the High Court yesterday, NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus said it was "absurd" and "ridiculous" that lawyers were protected from negligence claims.

The plans to over-ride the existing immunity for lawyers, which dates to the 16th century, is in response to a High Court ruling that not only confirmed the immunity but "expanded" it.

Queensland Attorney-General Rod Welford said he would support new laws removing lawyers' immunity from prosecution.

"There's no particular reason why lawyers should be exempt from negligence," he said. "I'm interested in reform of the law in this area."

But Mr Welford said the attorneys-general would have to be careful to ensure the laws did not prevent lawyers from pursuing all reasonable means to achieve justice for their clients or deter lawyers from taking cases they were unlikely to win.

"We have to be cautious not to place laws which would inhibit advocates exploring all avenues of a client's representation," he said.

Lawyers are the only professionals who have immunity from negligence claims in relation to court work.

Australia is one of the last common law countries to have such an immunity for lawyers.

The High Court decision on Thursday was in response to a Victorian man Ryan D'Orta-Ekenaike who wanted to sue his lawyer for wrongly advising him to plead guilty during a rape trial.

Thursday's decision also expanded the protection to out-of-court work and extended the protection from barristers to solicitors.

Mr Debus said the decision by the court was "ridiculous" and he would seek new laws to change it.

"Thursday's decision of the High Court leaves Australia as one of the last major jurisdictions in the common law world to continue to provide absolute immunity from negligence for lawyers," he said. "The idea that a patient can sue their doctor for negligence but a client may not sue their lawyer is ridiculous.

"This kind of immunity has already been overturned in the UK, US, Canada and, most recently, in New Zealand. It is absurd that the High Court of Australia is digging in its heels."

The only dissenting judge on the High Court, Justice Michael Kirby, attacked his colleagues' decision claiming lawyers had no special privilege.

"I question why an anomalous immunity is not only preserved in Australia but now actually enlarged by a binding legal rule that will include out-of-court advising and extend to protect solicitors as well as barristers," he said.

"With all respect to those of the contrary view, I regard such a decision as legally erroneous, unwarranted and unworthy."

The NSW Law Society said the decision did not extend the protection of lawyers any further than that which already existed.

"It is fair to say this latest (High Court) decision adds clarity to this position . . . solicitors are now in same position as barristers," Law Society President John McIntyre said. "But all it has done is made it clearer."

Ok, well, all i can say if this happens, the courts will then be tied up with bogus bloody claims against lawyers and the public will be waiting even longer for their matter to go to trial. Of course i have a million other things to say about this however i will not bore you to tears.


Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

HI sweetie,
This is not boring! Read it all the way through; I'm just too tired to comment with anything to say...yet. :)

3:18 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I'd sure like a place where there was no accountability for my negligence. Imagine being able to do a half-arsed job at what you do, especially representing a person who could be wrongly accused of something. You could just show up and not give a damn what happens.

I like the new laws Australia proposes, because it brings accountability to the profession, which is a good thing.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

GEL~ Know the feeling :)

Steve~ In no way do i oppose accountability, infact i am all for it. The thing is we are already held accountable, via so many other organisations. This is just a new way of "taking us to the cleaners" fact i predict that it will end up backfiring with so many pathetic claims.

3:44 PM  

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