News & Current Affairs

By Aulich


17 Hour Judgment Raises Concern for Wasteful Court Costs

The NSW Supreme Court has criticised Judge Garry Neilson for reading aloud a 138-page judgment for 17 hours over four days. With litigation already an expensive and stressful process for many litigants, the Court stressed the importance of avoiding these kind of time-wasting practices.  Justice Neilson’s decision from May 2016 followed a six-day trial in Wagga Wagga for a negligence matter and sparked widespread concern in the legal community.

Over two centuries ago it was common practice all judgments were delivered orally. However, this tradition has been steadily eroded making it extremely rare for judgments to be given for longer than one day. It is now customary to give judgments of such length by publishing written reasons eliminating any need for expensive and time consuming deliveries.

Michaela Whitbourn of the Sydney Morning Herald stated the practice of audibly giving long judgments wastes both public and private costs. Public costs will be accrued in paying court officers and court-appointed reporters. Private costs can weigh very heavily on the parties who must pay for representatives to attend the court for extra days.

On appeal the Supreme Court found the practice excessive and hard to reconcile with section 57 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW) which states court proceedings are to be managed in a just, cost-efficient and timely manner. Justice McColl concluded ‘there is no explanation in either the transcript of the hearing, or the primary judge’s reasons, as to why his Honour delivered a judgment of such length while sitting in court.’