Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Very few people wish me happy name day these March peppered days - well by confirmation name I am addressed as Patrick while my real name is Jozef - on 17 March I must celebrate my confirmation name day and today is St Jozef's name - My sister Gitka always remembers to send me a message even if she is busy in Prague helping my other sister Eva to get organised;-) This year I did not let this important excuse to have a drink slip by unnoticed among friends - well == this week lots of things from the past keep flooding back...

Including the idea of coming to Sydney, which was transformative. You would become a different person here. Many refugees tend to agree... The moral admonitions of Cold War that loom so large in the European memory are invisible to Australians. With time and distance, evil fades... Imagine you fall on hard times of isolation in exile and (it's hard, but try) imagine further that you never want to be right if the government is wrong …

As long ago as 1628, Sir Edward Coke suggested that legal materials should not be published in English lest the unlearned by bare reading without right understanding might suck out errors, and trusting in their conceit, might endamage themselves, and sometimes fall into destruction. Worries about sucking, endamaging, and destruction persist to this day, though the conceit is arguably heavily concentrated on the other side of the issue.

People — and by “people” I mean “lawyers” — generally believe that there are two consumers of legal information. The first is a “law person” — a judge, lawyer, academic, or student — who makes sophisticated professional use of caselaw, statutes, regulations, treatises. The other is the “man in the street”, someone who is having an episodic, traumatic encounter with the legal system: getting crushed by debt, getting divorced, getting arrested. This leads to a misconception: the idea that both the literature and the audience for it are sharply bifurcated. On the one hand, there is “legal information”, a specialist literature that the man in the street doesn’t want and couldn’t understand in any case. On the other, there is what I suppose one might call “advice to the law-lorn”, simply-written, presented in bite-size chunks via newspaper or television, and providing orientation for those participating in one of the episodes mentioned earlier, or perhaps trying to solve a consumer-protection problem.

He was no lover of the common law, which Blackstone put on a pedestal. On the contrary, he described the common law as a place of “dark Chaos”. He advocated substitution of the codification of law and its enactment in statutes passed by an elected Parliament which would take the place of the step by step accretion of common law principle, performed by analogous reasoning by judges of infinite variety. For him, codes and statutory principles would “mark out the line of the subject’s conduct by visible directions instead of turning [the subject] loose into the wilds of perpetual conjecture”. He had great powers of invective, often directed against ‘Judge and Co’ (ie the Bench and the Bar), whom he saw as a ‘sinister interest’ profiting from the operation at great cost to the public of an unnecessarily complex and chaotic legal system in which it was often impossible for a litigant to discover in advance his legal rights. .

Those words are a paraphrase of HLA Hart, taken from an address given by Australian High Court Justice Michael Kirby at the Law via the Internet ‘99 conference Kirby’s talk still rings true now, painfully close to a decade later:

Providing undigested legal material is not enough. It is essential that we provide citizens with the tools of thinking through problems, finding the applicable legal rules and deriving from legislation and case law any principle that must be obeyed….Throwing onto the plate of people, with fundamental misapprehensions about their legal institutions, a huge mass of undigested legal data will not truly make the law free and more accessible. It is the duty of schools and universities to help the next generation, including the overwhelming majority who are not lawyers, to appreciate the way in which law is written, may be found and is applied - at least in those matters which are of greatest concern to the ordinary person. Otherwise, Bentham and his followers will have been outfoxed once again by Judge & Co.

In the years since Kirby’s speech, we’ve seen enormous progress in making law available. Courts, legislatures, and agencies have all provided online warehouses full of their work product (and indeed the e-Government Act of 2002 requires Federal courts to do so). More recently, interest from open-access advocates among the technorati has resulted in admirable projects like, AltLaw, and an important and exciting venture in cross-subsidy for open access, Justia . Nameless for now

I believe what happened to Mark D'arney, Alan Beverstock or David Draper is one of the more shameful episodes in this whole place called the NSW Parliament or the Bear Pit. There was much whispering in the back seat, dancing in the shadows, and searching for missing paper clips, but, obviously, none was found missing ...

Can we change the heart of politics? Rocking the Rivers of Mateships
The Iemma Government has been rocked by explosive claims that convicted paedophile Milton Orkopoulos was tipped off by senior parliamentary officials that police were investigating him. Ms Sneddon said she was told on February 8 by Elaine Schofield, the NSW Parliament employee services manager, that the new MP for Swansea, Robert Coombs, had not wanted her on staff.
Earlier in the morning, Orkopoulos had joked with journalists about what time the jury was likely to reach its verdict. As more than a dozen journalists entered a sweepstake on the time of the verdict, Orkopoulos jokingly entered, choosing Friday at 11.30am. He won the pool, but when the time arrived, the smile had long vanished from his face. The jury found he had sex with two boys after supplying them with cannabis and heroin while they were minors after 1995.

Gillian Sneddon, who worked as Orkopoulos's electorate officer in the Hunter seat of Swansea, said she feared she would be killed after learning that Russell Grove, the clerk of the Legislative Assembly, had met with Orkopoulos to tell him about the investigation. Soon after that Russell Grove from Parliament, the clerk of the Legislative Assembly, sat down with Milton and had a meeting with him to tell him about it. ... The Herald revealed on Saturday that Ms Sneddon's employment as an electorate officer was terminated by the NSW Parliament on February 22, the day she first testified against Orkopoulos.
Mrs Sneddon accused a senior parliamentary official of holding a meeting with Orkopoulos shortly after she phoned an officer at Parliament and revealed she was helping police. The official is now under pressure to answer whether he informed the then speaker and Labor MP John Aquilina about the allegations.
Ms Sneddon, Orkopoulos's former electorate officer in the seat of Swansea, said she helped collect evidence for police and told a parliamentary official about the investigation on September 11, 2006.
"Soon after that, the official from Parliament sat down with Milton and had a meeting with him to tell him about it," she told Radio 2GB's Ray Hadley. "This was a covert police operation and by Milton knowing about it, that was in fact endangering my life." Ms Sneddon, made redundant the day she began giving evidence in the ex-MP's trial, said Parliament had effectively protected Orkopoulos.
She showed The Daily Telegraph a statement from Parliament's employee and corporate services manager Elaine Schofield which was supplied as part of her worker's compensation claim. In part the statement said: "(The official) and I had a meeting with Milton Orkopoulos arising out of Ms Sneddon's absence and workers' compensation claim. "During that meeting Mr Orkopoulos acknowledged he was aware that a police investigation was being conducted in relation to him.
"He indicated to us that they were old matters that had previously been dealt with by police and they were being rehashed. "He indicated that the allegations were promoted by his wife's former husband and . . . they related to interference with a young male."
Ms Sneddon said colleagues at the Swansea electorate office told Orkopoulos of her role in the police operation, photocopying documents.
And what did Parliament do - they had the locks changed to keep me out. Because I was assisting police, Milton obviously conspired with Parliament to have me locked out. So in effect what Parliament was doing . . . they were protecting the subject of the police inquiry, they were locking out the police witness.Orkopoulos is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last week on 28 child sex and drug charges.

Tip-off put my life in danger - staffer; [SMH 1; SMH 2; DT; ABCCourier
• · The internet’s instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all sectors in our economy. We need this gigantic copy machine... ; Children lie early, and often, for many reasons: to avoid punishment, bond with friends, gain a sense of control. And there’s another reason