Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones have called on Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, to co-sign a letter to Attorney-General George Brandis QC calling on him to guarantee that the Wollongong Federal Circuit Court registry is not left with a part-time judge in Wollongong.
Local families are currently facing delays of up to three years for a trial date – this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The Wollongong and District Law Society has been pushing for the appointment of a full-time judge to Wollongong for some time. Under a proposal by Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe, a visiting judge will only sit in Wollongong for six to eight weeks a year.
“Stephen and I wrote to the Attorney-General in December because of the constant real stories of hardship we were hearing from local families and legal representatives.
“We have received a reply from his Chief of Staff. The reply did not rule out Judge Pascoe’s proposal,” Sharon Bird said.
Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones indicated that they have invited Ann Sudmalis to join with them in writing to the Attorney-General to call on him to take urgent action to guarantee that Wollongong will not be left with a part-time option in the hope that a bi-partisan approach will get urgent action on the matter.
“Families could be forced to wait years or travel to Sydney with their lawyers which could add thousands of dollars to their legal bills. Longer and more expensive family court cases could have devastating effects on local families and children.
Stephen Jones said solicitors typically charge in 6 minute intervals.
“By failing to provide adequate resources to the Federal Court system in the Illawarra the government is effectively placing a huge financial burden on Illawarra families as two or three hours of legal fees are wasted on solicitor travel time to and from the courts in Sydney. It is unfair, it is unreasonable and it jeopardises those solicitors willing to work on a fixed-fee basis, like legal-aid solicitors,” the Member for Throsby said.
“The Federal Court system is experiencing time delays and the Attorney General’s failure to replace judges is exacerbating families’ difficulties.”
“The Attorney General cannot ignore the situation faced by local families any longer.” said Jones.
“We hope that Ms Sudmalis takes a common sense approach to this problem as her electorate is producing the same terrible stories of impact on families as we are, and her families have even further to travel for court hearings,” Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones concluded.