Einfeld release date looms ... Putting a scythe through the government's legal panels ... The Streets are filled with lawyers ... The Brottery, with bodies in the basement, goes to market ... Barrister kicks-up stink about Public Defenders ... Theodora blogs for Justinian
I hear that former High Court judge Michael Kirby has been to Silverwater to visit The Mensch.
Marcus Einfeld will be released from prison on March 19. After two years of porridge he's lost weight, but none of his enormous sense of self.
The screws kept a tight rein on the great human rights jurist. He was incarcerated strictly by the book and enjoyed very few privileges.
The authorities were anxious that The Daily Smellograph would go berserk if it discovered that Einfeld had an extra scoop of ice-cream with dinner.
It must be a long time since anyone from the High Court has seen inside a prison (with the exception of Justice Bell whose clients had horrible dreams that they'd seen their lawyer on telly dressed a barrel-girl).
* * *
By all accounts the big roundtable chinwag in Canberra last month on carving-up the $643 million pie for Commonwealth legal services was a bit of fiasco.
Federal Attorney General Robert (Potato Head) McClelland said he wanted to reduce the number of panels serving government departments and agencies from 72 to 10. The lucky few will be on three x three x three year contracts.
Yikes. People were on their hind legs in an instant. The chest-beating was awesome. Some who have been grazing on the government teat were upset about the tedious tendering process and wanted something done about it.
Aggression was thick in the air.
Barristers' clerk Belinda Lyus asked why more work couldn't be briefed direct to the bar. Apparently, the answer was the Commonwealth wanted to avoid too much litigation!
* * *
Bloodlines in the law run thick.
Among the most recent crop of NSW admittees to the legal caper is Isabella Street.
She is the third member of the fifth generation of Streets to sign-up.
Other members of this generation already plying the trade with Street blood pumping through their veins are James Emmett and Angus Gemmell.
The whole show started with Sir Philip Street (CJ NSW 1925-1934) sire of Sir Kenneth Street (CJ NSW 1950-1960) sire of Sir Laurence Street (CJ NSW 1974-1988) sire of Sandy Street SC, Sylvia Emmett (Federal Magistrate) and former solicitor, now head-hunter and strategist, Sarah Farley.
Isabella is the daughter of Sandy's brother Ken Street.
All up and including Sylia's terms as a NSW and Federal Magistrate, Streets have put in 82 years on the bench. If you include time at the bar AND on the bench there is a total of 125 years of Street lawyering.
And on it will go.
* * *
The Brottery has been on the market for some months - the splendid building in Melbourne's Little Bourke Street from where the trickster plied his dark arts. The auction is on March 25.
The most recent disciplinary proceedings against Issac Brott saw him put off the track for eight years. He's also been dispatched to the Supreme Court to see if he should be struck-off the jam roll.
The premises, in the heart of the legal turf, would make a fine set of chambers, were it not for the dismembered clients rattling around the basement dungeon.
In the latest twist to his varied career it emerged that Brott even acted for people who has never requested his services.
One prospective buyer tells me the interior of his law shop is in bad shape - "like a bomb site".
What on earth went on in there?
* * *
The lion of the Coffs Harbour bar, Stephen Loomes, has roared.
He wrote last month to The Sydney Morning Herald with a letter the paper strapped: "New legal aid panel will help perpetuate monopoly".
It was really a broadside aimed at Public Defenders:
"A coterie of public service lawyers, called public defenders, wearing the robes of the private bar, earn more than $250,000 a year, with entitlements. They are not subject to review of their talents and have a monopoly on work from the Legal Aid Commission in criminal trials; unless they declare that none of them is available to do a trial, it cannot be briefed to the private bar."
Private barristers, moaned Loomes, struggle with an average of $900 a day from the legal aid commission, with no sick leave, no long service leave, no workers compensation, nothing.
"The results in criminal trials conducted by members of the private bar reflect the fact that they live or fail on their success rate...
"Just watch when the next Labor offender is hauled before the courts as to whether their representative is a public defender or a member of the private bar."
Loomes is the son of a former City Coroner.
Senior Public Defender Mark Ierace replied with a follow-up missive, pointing out that "it is rare for a politician charged with a criminal offence to qualify for legal aid". He added:
"We do not have a 'monopoly' over legal aid briefs. We are few in number, 25 compared with about 550 private barristers who do criminal work."
In an unpublished letter to the Herald, Tom Kelly, former NSW Public Solicitor and deputy director of the LAC, drove it home more pointedly.
He said that the last Labor politician to be prosecuted was Rex (Buckets) Jackson, who "was unsuccessfully represented by a leading member of the private bar".
He cited various bugbears he endured during his time at Legal Aid, including:
"The poor work of a minority of incompetent private trial barristers [and] the unnecessary extra cost to the legal aid budget, caused by a minority of inexperienced, greedy or incompetent barristers who were chosen by private solicitors."
"There are no Public Defenders based at or doing legal aid work at Coffs Harbour. The members of the private bar have a monopoly of legally aided work in that region, where Mr Loomes has his practice."