From Justinian, July 1992
Shellacking for Marsden
Some of the judges are absolutely livid with President J. Marsden from the NSW Law Society.
Mars Bar gave this wonderful speech at a recent Access to Justice seminar held at State Parliament House.
Basically his thesis was that it wasn’t solicitors’ fault that the middle class was denied access to “justice”.
It was the fault of the government and the judges, what with case flow management – “the grab-bag of judicial techniques”, which drag practitioners “willy nilly back and forth to courts”.
He added, for good measure, that the judiciary’s failure to address his concerns about case flow management …
“confirms that the judges, in most cases, lost touch with the realities of the coal face many years ago. They have little concept of the impact of costs on the average citizen.”
Smiling Jim Staunton, chief judge of the District Court, did not express any aggravation at the time he received his copy of the sermon.
But, it was not so on the night of the Law Society Council dinner for District Court judges.
Marsden had to sit very quietly while Smiling Jim tore strips off him, in the most judicial way possible.
In a speech that had everyone entranced Staunton said it was not the function of the President of the Law Society to go around bagging judges, rather it was his job to reinforce the majesty of the judiciary.
“A deliberate shellacking,” was the way one observer described the unfortunate incident.
* * *
The view from Campbelltown
Yet it was not the only blast that President Marsden has been subjected to in recent weeks.
Before the Metherell fiasco was referred to ICAC the president was responsible, single handedly, for delaying Premier Greiner’s fate for several weeks.
The pressure was on from the Independent MPs in the NSW Legislative Assembly for Greiner to step down pending the inquiry, but Mars Bar had a quiet word in the shell pink ear of leading Independent, Clover Moore.
Following that she changed her position. She dropped her insistence that Greiner step aside at that point.
Clover herself said:
“I talked to him (Marsden) on Sunday and … he told me that … he’d been out at Campbelltown and that the view being put to him in Campbelltown was that you need to get on with the business of parliament.”
Independent MP John Hatton thought it was highly inappropriate that Marsden involve himself at “this level of politics” because the Law Society was supposed to be apolitical.
Hatton also reported said: “You may be interested to know this is the second occasion [he has approached members].”
Asked if he thought Marsden was doing the bidding of the Premier, the powerful Independent replied:
“Look, I don’t know. I can’t speak for Mr Marsden. I thought it’s an unusual role for the President of the Law Society… There is conflict there and he has to resolve it.”
Clover Moore and Marsden have been close for some time, with Mars Bar gathering support among the gay groups to support Clover at election time.
But when the crunch came after the ICAC findings not even Marsden could save Greiner.
In any event Marsden’s great mate and former partner, John Fahey, was going to be Premier.
But what a report from ICAC?
Temby gave pretty poor arguments to support his line that Greiner’s partiality in having the strange zen freak Metherell take a public service job could amount to reasonable grounds for dismissal.
But the odd thing is that the former NSW Labor government, which generated a fair degree of pong, seem to have got off scot-free, despite the Liberals referring several ghastly episodes to ICAC for investigation.
Temby wouldn’t touch the Botany scandal, concerning allegations of corruption against L. Brereton, who these days is Keating’s fast-tracker of special projects.
Temby said it was too long ago for a successful conviction and that in searching for the truth memories would be too faded.
However, it could be said that it wasn’t so much convictions that were desired, rather the truth of the matter.
When Justinian checked with a couple of the former aldermen of the Botany council, who alleged that Brereton tried to bribe them over a property rezoning, they said their memories were crystal clear.
One said he will “never forget” what happened. He also described a letter he received from ICAC on the issue as “one of the most shithouse letters I have ever read”.
Furthermore, no one from ICAC had ever checked with these aldermen just how good their recollections might be.
The Law Council has come out and deplored attacks on Temby over the Metherell report.
Indeed, one must be careful in making remarks about this complex man because he is known to be very ready to sue.
Pic of Marsden by Brendan Esposito