Communication from the Federal Court


COVID-19: A message from President Tim Game SC

Over the last few days I have mentioned communications on behalf of the NSW Bar with Government and the courts regarding the effect of COVID-19-related arrangements. These communications are continuing and I will keep members informed of developments.

The Bar Association received such a communication from the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, The Hon James Allsop AO, this afternoon.

The Chief Justice has advised that he is beginning to allocate first instance matters to judges in the light of the fact that many judges are becoming familiar with the Teams remote technology. This will enable many more case management hearings to be held by this remote method and enable the court to continue to undertake a volume of work. The Chief Justice hopes that within the next few weeks the court will be functioning at something in the order of 40-60% capacity. The Court is intending to release revised special measures information and a practice note in this regard in the very near future.

The Chief Justice has also advised that there has been a s91X data breach, which has been investigated over the last 10 days. The problem stemmed from the way information was presented by those filing and from failures of the system at registry level. The problem existed in both the public portal and a secure portal at the Commonwealth Courts Portal. The Court has now shut down indefinitely the public search facility on migration in the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

Notwithstanding the closure of the public portal, litigants and their advisers will still be able to access the secure portal. To the extent that it is possible, the court will inform litigants and their advisers of the breach.

Finally the Chief Justice also raised the treatment of practitioners with consideration by the Court. He said "I have raised with judges of the court the question of consideration of the profession in their difficult times. The court understands that the profession is undergoing extraordinary strain and pressure, both financial and personal. The courts and the profession are trying to adapt to serve the administration of justice.

The profession is doing this often in the context of difficult family circumstances: working from home, caring for children at home, with partners doing the same, and in all likelihood without IT support of the kind institutions such as the Federal Court enjoy. I have indicated to judges that it is unrealistic and may be unfair not to give consideration to these matters in timeframes for doing work and in making case management orders and decisions.

I have indicated that a degree of heightened consideration and politeness is called for by the Court and judges in circumstances in which we find ourselves. No doubt there may be some persons who will seek to take advantage of the current difficult circumstances for unnecessary delay. They will be few and as I have said to the judges they will still be there when normality returns. I hope this assists with the profession in dealing with work in these difficult times."

I thank the Chief Justice for his comments and commend them to you.

I would also like to thank those members who have provided feedback to the association regarding technological and other concerns relating to the broader effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NSW Bar. Such input enables the Association to pursue these matters on your behalf, and I would encourage members to continue to bring these matters to our attention.

COVID - 19 : Information for Attending Court

The New South Wales Bar Association’s consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements has been updated in terms of recent developments and includes:

Members are advised in this regard that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, please refer to the latest court resources directly as developments are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.

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