Lawyers reject Justice Minister’s claim that court delays are not standard

by Sol Dolor28 Oct 2016
Lawyers are rejecting Justice Minister Amy Adam’s assertion that lengthy court delays are not standard across courts in New Zealand.
Adams recently claimed that it’s not standard for those in queue for an urgent hearing in the Family Court to be waiting for over a year. Suggestions this is so are unfair, she said.
“Without knowing the specific case you're talking about, I can't possibly respond. But it's unfair, I think, to characterise that as being a standard situation, it's certainly not to the best of my knowledge,” the Justice Minister said.
However, in an interview with Radio NZ, a New Zealand Law Society official noted that lawyers on the ground see the contrary.
“Around our table we have lawyers from all parts of the country and they represent lawyers in cities and in smaller towns and everyone around the table is saying delay is a concern. It's a real issue in all parts of the country,” Michelle Duggan, chair of the Society’s Family Law section, told the news organisation.
She also countered the Justice Minister’s claim that the reason why the number of applications for urgent hearings has mushroomed was because many lawyers filed applications before reforms were implemented in 2014.
The major Family Court reforms were targeted to ease the court’s load and encourage parties to see resolution outside court proceedings.
However, they have been criticised as having caused their own problems, particularly the sharp increase in without-notice applications to the court.
Read: Flaws in Family Court reforms highlighted
Duggan told Radio NZ that the government needed to act now to resolve the serious situation in courts.
“Judges are working to capacity, but if there are more files than they can possibly deal with, they just can't get it done. People can't have decisions, people can't move on with their lives,” she said.
According to the report, the number of urgent applications to the Family Court rocketed to 1,104 in June 2016 from 590 the same time three years ago. From March 2013, the average wait for a parenting order increased to 329 days by March 2016, up from 275.
Delays are being reported in courts across the country, such as in the Queenstown District Court, which say wait time for court trials more than double in the last three years.

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