Enby started talking about this on Kelly thread, but thought it deserved its own.
At the Law Society Annual Conference, Shatter decided to have another go at the judges and criticised the court timetable. He questioned whether all of the breaks were really necessary in this day and age.
As loath as I am to admit it, and as much as I despise him, unfortunately I, for once, find myself in agreement with Shatter. I feel so dirty saying that.
As a "relatively" young practitioner, I find the amount of breaks in the year excessive. It's a holiday for senior practitioners who have consistent incomes and regular work, but for people starting out and struggling at the beginning its not a holiday but essentially two months of the year where you make no money. I remember dreading the long vacation and trying desperately to save as much money as possible to get me through the two months.
Inevitably, by sticking around, you get some stuff to keep you going, but it really is an unacceptable practice in a supposedly modern system and a deterrent to younger barristers who may not necessarily be able to afford two months "vacation". Of course, it's also bad for clients. The only people it benefits are the judges and cosy senior practitioners. I know the excuse is that the judges use the time to write judgments, but there's more than a whiff of bullsh*t about that excuse. Sure, some of them write judgments, but not all. Secondly, if shorter holidays means more streamlined and concise judgments rather then the 100 page + ridiculousness that is sometimes produced now, then that's a good thing.
We all know the school holidays and the court holidays are left overs of a time when people needed to head home to assist with planting and then the harvest. Those times are long gone. There is no excuse for the continuation of either. I also found it extremely amusing that Shatter would criticise the judges when the Dail is the only body that has longer holidays! No excuse for those breaks either but you won't hear a peep from politicians about that.
I see no reason why the courts can't start back properly in September. August would be unworkable due to the large number of experts who take holidays during that period.
I also see no reason for the number and length of the other "vacation" periods throughout the year. I want to work. I want to earn money. I can't do that if the courts aren't sitting and cases aren't being heard. The "holidays" only suit senior practitioners with established practices and in my opinion are a significant barrier to entry and further obstacle (amongst too many already) to people trying to build a practice.
While we're at it, I think the courts should start earlier, at maybe 9.30 or 10. You need a bit of time to talk before cases start, but an 11 o'clock start is not justifiable. I'm not sure you could extend the finish time beyond 4 o'clock. The registrars have to write up Orders after court, and if the court sits longer than 4, they wouldn't have time to finish up the Orders and organise lists etc for the following day. Unless they had secretarial support staff which would simply increase overall running costs.
So, even though the President of the High Court has indicated that some cases will be heard in September, I don't think it goes anywhere near far enough. I .... agree ..... ugh .... with Shatter. Jesus, that was hard.
He also suggested reforming judicial appointments, which again is badly needed. Although bizarrely he suggested that academics should be appointed judges. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen. At least in America, where legal and professional education are combined, and where a lot of the academics are actually practising lawyers, there is some basis for it. In England, some of the more senior academics are barristers attached to chambers and appear in cases as consultants so there is a justification there as well. However, in this jurisdiction, most of them barely have a professional qualification, let alone have ever practised. They're not exactly up there with the likes of Baroness Hale or Posner. The only one who would even approach it was Hogan, who was a Senior Counsel and he has been made a judge. I can't think of anyone else who'd be up to it to be honest, apart from Binchy, who is back practising now and who I think would be too old for appointment.
On a final note, there is another article in today's Irish Times reporting on another aspect of Shatter's speech at the weekend. He apparently said that his revenge bill, "reforming" the profession, has been amended to take into account the "concerns" (read almost universal condemnation) raised by people in relation to his grab for power. He said the Bill will now be referred to Committee stage, almost two years later.
I'll be interested to see what changes he's made to his little glory project. Will family law taxations still be secret? Will he still be able to appoint himself Senior Counsel? Will he still try and abolish the bar (as he suggested quite strongly in a recent address to Law Society graduates I think)? Will he still try and establish three new quangos, which he never costed and which have been demonstrated to cost more than the current model, and which will have to be paid for by the professions (read the clients through increased fees)? And all these quangos will have permanent jobs for life, with public service style pensions, all of which again will be funded by us through increased fees. Truly inspired reforms Shatter. Really.