The sad secret that is no longer a secret is that our legal system is built not just on altruism, justice and the search for truth, but also on lies, money and arrogance: the lies of lawyers who are rewarded for deceit (“acting on my client’s instructions”), the money of litigants who can wear down their opponents in a war of attrition and arid technicality.
And I’m not even talking about Justice Marcus Einfeld, QC, PhD, LLD, who is in the public free-fall of a media inquisition. Over the weekend, not one, not two, but three separate negative stories, all new, enveloped Einfeld, as three newspapers broke different stories attacking the edifice of Einfeld’s career.
Questions have been raised about his role as chairmanship of the goldminer Diamond Rose NL. Questions have been raised about his role in the now defunct company Australian Legal Resources International. And questions have been raised about his evidence in not one, but three traffic cases in which he says he was not the driver of a car caught speeding by a speed camera.
The role of speed cameras in our society has loomed large in our legal system in the past week, a subject to which we will return.
The public inquisition of Marcus Einfeld, which has now approached the point of overkill and feeding frenzy (especially the references to prostitutes rummaging through garbage bins) has not emerged out of nothing. It is not some aberration. It is part of a large trend of public disquiet.
There is a context. In recent years, we have the unfortunate end to the career of Justice Jeff Shaw. We have had querulous magistrates. We had the rise and demise of a perjuring blackmailer, John Marsden, former president of the Law Society of NSW. We’ve had the garrulousness of Marsden’s chief eulogiser, Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court. And we’ve had the tragic end of Justice David Yeldham, among other examples.
For years, there has been a natural sense of proportion (helped in a small way by the latent threat of contempt proceedings should anyone insult a judge’s ruling) that the law is above the crash and smash of public blood sport. Reticence has receded in recent years as a result of a series of highly contentious trials, and an a seemingly inexorable rise in the power and number of lawyers and, inevitably, of litigation.