Statement by Chief Justice Allsop
Federal Court of Australia
29 October 2018
The recent articles in the Australian Financial Review are fundamentally flawed and unfair both to the Court and to extremely hard working individual judges. The so-called rankings of “productivity” are compiled from a narrow and less than accurate data set, which captures only one part of the work of the Court and judges and then fails to put it in its proper context, context which the journalist was given. The result is both misleading and grossly unfair. The simplistic metrics of so-called words and paragraphs per day, and days taken for judgments, give no sense, and take no account, of the overall work of the Court or of the individual judges. They are of no utility in providing an insight into the institution’s work or service provided by a group of judges whom I know to be dedicated and extremely hard working. The so-called ranking is simply meaningless as an assertion of supposedly relevant comment on the Court as an institution, or on these men and women as judges.
Further, the singling out of 20 past and present judges as those who have taken the longest time to deliver judgment is particularly unfair. A number of judgments were deferred with the consent, or at the request, of the parties pending resolution of litigation and the determination of issues in other cases on appeal in the Court, or in other Courts including Courts of Appeal and the High Court. At least one other judgment was in fact more than one judgment in the one piece of litigation, none of which judgments was delivered over 12 months from hearing. Another involved the disposition of multiple different proceedings. Such considerations can be ascertained by reading the judgments. The judgments included complex commercial, native title, and intellectual property matters requiring the application of significant care and intellectual effort. The compilation of the list – failing as it does to recognise the factors in those cases which might legitimately result in time between hearing and judgment, and without any consideration of the circumstances of the judges concerned in those years, including, but not limited to their work and workload – appears calculated simply to embarrass individual judges.