Saturday, March 5, 2011

Quotable Quotes: too cool for stare decisis

Griffith CJ is too cool for stare decisisDoodeward v Spence (1908) 6 CLR 406, 412
[Regarding some very old cases on the status of a dead body as property:] I do not, myself, accept the dogma of the verbal inerrancy of ancient text writers. Indeed, equally respectable authority, of equal antiquity, may be cited for establishing as a matter of law the reality of witchcraft. But in my opinion none of the authorities cited afford any assistance in the present case. We are, therefore, free to regard it as a case of first instance arising in the 20th century, and to decide it in accordance with general principles of law, which are usually in accord with reason and common sense.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Words Gone Wrong: Proscribed, prescribed, or something

I feel some sympathy for the people who made this mistake:
Successful applicants will have until last mail October 14, 2011 to claim their rebate. Rebates not claimed by that date in the proscribed manner will be forfeited.
(Emphasis mine.)

Proscribed, not prescribed. For those unfamiliar with the word, here's a definition of "proscribe", courtesy of the OED:

proscribe: verb [with object]
    forbid, especially by law:
        strikes remained proscribed in the armed forces
Therefore, if you replace proscribed with a synonym, such as forbidden, the last sentence reads:
Rebates not claimed by that date in the forbidden manner will be forfeited.

The word they're almost certainly looking for is prescribed. If we again substitute a synonym - say required - we get the much more sensible sentence:
Rebates not claimed by that date in the required manner will be forfeited.
As I said, it's an easy mistake to make. Don't be the sucker who makes it next.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Update: Contempt of the CCC: Sentencing

An update my post about the bikies convicted of contempt of the CCC: they've been sentenced, most to 2 years. The story's on WAtoday.

Allbeury, the guy who swore at the Commissioner, also swore at Martin CJ, and got three months extra for his trouble.

UPDATE: The judgment has been published.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Infographic: What the WA Supreme Court did in 2010

With the help of the miracle of computers, I've created this chart of first-level catchwords of the cases decided by the WA Supreme Court (not including the Court of Appeal) in 2010, which gives an interesting overview of where the court spends its time. Mouse-over a section for more info. (Update: This does not work in the RSS feed - please click through to the blog see the chart.)

Topics the WA Supreme Court considered in 2010
[2010] WASC cases by catchword

Catchwords are the way the court categorises issues decided upon in a case. For example, the catchwords for one case read:
Practice and procedure - Application for summary judgment - Whether the defendant has an arguable defence - Turns on own facts
Any case can have any number of sets of catchwords. For example, another case has the following two sets of catchwords:
Arbitration - Award of arbitrator - Application for leave to appeal on question of law - Whether various findings by arbitrator provide strong evidence of or amount to a manifest error of law
Arbitration - Application to set aside award for misconduct - Whether arbitrator breached rules of natural justice by determining an issue not pleaded - Factors governing the exercise of the discretion to set aside award
Construction of the chart
  1. Every 2010 WASC decision was downloaded, and the keywords extracted.
  2. The first catchword from each set was extracted (the part before the first dash). For example, the first catchwords from the above sets are "Practice and procedure", "Arbitration" and "Arbitration".
  3. Similar catchwords were merged. For example, "Criminal law and procedure" was combined into "Criminal law". Another example: "Real property", "Indefeasibility", "Sale of land", etc., were all combined into "Property".
  4. The merged catchwords were counted and the results charted above.
The merging process, and the catchwords themselves, are inexact. Therefore the results, while indicative, should not be relied upon for anything serious.

Monday, January 31, 2011


I don't know how it'll turn out, and I won't promise it as a permanent feature. But for now at least, I have a twitter account.

Now I just have to do something useful with it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In Brief: "WikiLeaks lawyer vows to prosecute Palin if she goes to Australia"

A lawyer associated with WikiLeaks has vowed that if Sarah Palin ever comes to Australia, he would begin a private prosecution against her for inciting violence against Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks lawyer vows to prosecute Palin if she goes to Australia: NPR « The Trial Warrior Blog

It's doomed to failure: the DPP can take over and discontinue any private prosecution. But it's still pretty hilarious.

Also, I didn't know private prosecutions were possible in Australia --- you learn something every day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Someone, finally, to prosecute over the death of Mr Ward

Seems WorkSafe has got the guts (and the law, and the evidence, presumably) to do something.

A prosecution means that justice is seen to be done. More importantly, it reinforces that no-one is below the protection of the law; no-one is above its scrutiny. The protection of law is common to all, not just to the upright and the virtuous. And so it should be!

Whatever your thoughts on Mr Ward, the fact is that a man died. It is entirely appropriate that WorkSafe investigate whether that death was due to unsafe work practises, and prosecute if it sees fit.

I am aware that Mr Ward is no saint. But consider this: what if it had been your father in the van? Your brother? Your son? Even if they had a criminal record, even if they were being hauled off to face a drink-driving charge, wouldn't you want their death fully investigated? Wouldn't you want those responsible to face some sort of justice?