It was fun at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral last week for the Red Mess law term kick-off.
Big Georgie Pell was off in Rome working the corridors with Herr Ratzinger and the boys, which meant that Archbishop Mark Coleridge from Canberra-Goulburn stepped in to flick holy water and smoke over the faithful.
Coleridge started his sermon by decrying the move in Italy to remove crucifixes from court rooms.
It was also pretty shocking, he thought, that the old Italian Ministry or Grace and Justice had dropped the word “Grace” from its title.
“Something has been lost with the demise of the word and the loss would be still greater if the crucifixes were taken down.”
My Catholic field agents tell me that Coleridge is being groomed for the top job in Sydney once George lands his generous backside on an important seat in the Holy of Holies.
Pell has earned his stripes as a hardline enforcer of the one true faith.
His latest heroic effort is an all out assault on a bunch of progressives, Australian Reforming Catholics.
However, His Eminence has lots of friends in high places, including the Mad Monk and the NSW Premier who was the minister responsible for the Draconian laws that accompanied World Youth Day.
Archbishop Coleridge (seen here) is cut from much the same cloth and if he comes to Sydney, he comes with a bit of a reputation.
On September 13, 2002 The Age in Melbourne published some some of his snarky correspondence.
A leading Anglican lady complained to Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart about insulting and misogynist emails sent to her by Bishop (as he then was) Coleridge.
Dr Muriel Porter, a member of several Anglican synods and a leading church historian, had written an article for The Age about the way Pell had dealt with the accusations of sexual abuse made against him.
She thought she was being supportive of Doc. Pell’s handling of the matter. Instead, to her surprise, up popped Coleridge in her inbox with a sneering spray:
“For one who writes so frequently and with such ineffable authority about the Catholic Church, you continue to show appalling ignorance of her ways. Ever thought of doing a course in Catholic ecclesiology? Email if you’re not sure what that means.”
Muriel was “disturbed and distressed” by this and wrote to Archbishop Hart, saying:
“I believe Bishop Coleridge’s email to be an unnecessarily abusive communication, particularly disappointing from a bishop of the church.”
Back came Coleridge with another burst:
“I gather you have been ‘telling on me’ to the Archbishop. How beautifully girlish. ‘Daddy tell him to stop’.”
Muriel wrote again to Hart:
“I am not frightened of a genuine exchange of opinion, but this is derogatory, a put down.”
Hart did not reply to her and Coleridge clammed up when approached by The Age.
Sounds like Sydney’s in for another right little charmer should he ever wind-up at St Mary’s.
* * *
What was Spiggsy Spigelman on about at the opening of the law term dinner at Parliament House?
According to his speech this is his position on a number of hot topics:
* A national judiciary is a good idea. This would involve dual judicial commissions to state and federal courts, as long as it’s a two way street. It would also require joint commonwealth-state funding.
* An independent judicial appointment process is not a good idea.
* A national scheme for judicial complaints is another bad idea. Complaints against judges are “essentially local”, so the complaints handling process should be kept local, except that it would be a handy if the NSW Judicial Commission was modified a bit so that it could investigate complaints about federal judges.
* The National Legal Profession Reform Project is to be supported. Seamless national practice is an important objective.
* However, the legal profession essentially provides local services and so cannot be organised exclusively for “the commercial benefit of the large national firms and the senior barristers who practice nationally”.
* To preserve the independent of the legal profession, the new National Legal Services Board should not be appointed by the attorneys general, but by the legal profession, with the chairperson anointed by the Chief Justices Council.
* Supreme Courts must retain the exclusive right to admit and discipline practitioners. If need be, Supreme Courts could establish a parallel regime in the event that the attorneys went ahead with a centralised regime. “Of course, it is in no one’s interest for that to happen.”
* To threaten the independence of the profession is to undermine its “efficiency”.
* Nothing should be done too quickly.
The Spigelman Doctrine boils down to the this
Let’s have national practice and national judges, but local handling of admissions and discipline. A national regime is OK as long as no one tries to shove Supreme Courts off the patch.
Furthermore, if the profession wasn’t self-regulated it would be “inefficient”.
This will go down as one the NSW CJ’s more intriguing orations.
To equate self-regulation with independence is so hoary it has whiskers on it.
The legal profession is the not the only profession/trade/game that needs to be independent of government, yet it is the only one that is entirely self-regulated.
And “efficiency”? Self-regulation is the bedfellow of inefficiency and self-interest. Presumably that’s why it is so popular.
* * *
There was a packed house for the swearing-in of new Federal Court judge Anna Katzmann conducted in one of the refurbished courtrooms with distracting views through to the Sydney Heads.
Everyone who was anyone was there. Spiggs, Kirbs, Hughes, McHuge, Little Ronnie, most of the bar ‘n’ grill, academics and other worthies.
Here are a few of the better morsels selected from the churn of buttery remarks:
Joe Catanzariti (for the Law Council): “According to colleagues I have spoken to, your Honour was always a fiercely committed and formidable advocate… Judge Moroney once interrupted your Honour in full steam with the comment, ‘Ms Katzmann, I love it when you talk law to me’...
Diet and exercise have been a constant throughout your career. You were always coming from the gym or going to the gym and there were various dietary regimes: no bread, lots of bread; only nuts, no nuts. Friends don’t think your Honour ever ordered off the menu. Everything had to be modified slightly.”
Tom Bathurst (for the ABA): “I am told your Honour is and remains an accomplished hockey player and an enthusiastic kickboxer. I have never seen your Honour indulge in the latter pastime, which is surprising because the temptation in some bar council meetings must have been absolutely overwhelming.”
Katzmann J: “Some years ago the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly told two British journalists from The Spectator that to be a judge, and I quote: ‘You need to be mentally disturbed. You need psychic disturbances. If they do that job it is because they are anthropologically different from the rest of the human race’.”