PRACTICE DIRECTION

No. 2 of 2014

Communicating with Magistrates and Magistrates' Chambers

Notice to Court Users

I, Michael Rodney Hill, as Chief Magistrate of Tasmania, make the following practice direction :

This notice reminds court users of a number of issues relevant to communications with the Magistrates and Magistrates' Chambers.

Generally, it is improper for a party or legal practitioner to communicate unilaterally with the Court about a case which the Court must decide.  Communication by one party without knowledge of the other may result in a Magistrate disqualifying him or herself.

Appropriate communication with the Court is sometimes necessary and desirable.  However, all parties, practitioners and other court users should understand that all communication with Magistrates must be undertaken in accordance with the following protocols.  This is to ensure that all parties are aware of the communication and that the impartiality and integrity of the Court is not undermined:

Parties in cases before the Court

1. It is never appropriate to attempt to contact a Magistrate directly about a case which the Magistrate has to decide.

2. All communication with a Magistrate must be through the Court Registry or via the Magistrate's clerk or in open court.

3. It is not usually appropriate for any party or any legal practitioner to contact a Magistrate about a matter unless all parties are in agreement.  If agreement cannot be reached and the issue cannot be resolved, then the Magistrate's clerk may be contacted to arrange for the matter to be listed before the Magistrate - provided that all parties are aware of the matter.

4. If it is necessary to contact a Magistrate (through their clerk) about a case, the party and/or practitioner seeking to contact the clerk will first contact each other party or practitioner involved in the case.  Any necessary communication will thereafter be joint and in writing.

5. In all cases (unless there are clearly exceptional circumstances) communication from a clerk to parties and/or practitioners about a matter should occur in writing and be sent contemporaneously to all parties/practitioners.  Given the availability of email communication, the Court expects this requirement is easily met.

6. Clerks will continue to contact practitioners and parties for the purpose of checking the status of a matter or in accordance with directions of the Court (see R v Fisher [2009] VSCA 100; R v Phillips [2009] QCA 57, and John Holland Rail Pty Ltd v Comcare [2011] FCAFC 34

Community Corrections, Court Diversion Officers and Other Liaison Officers et al

7. Any communication about a case which the Magistrate has to decide must be through the Court Registry or the Magistrate's clerk.  The communication must be in writing, so that it can be provided to the parties in the case as required.  It is expected that such communication will be sent contemporaneously to all relevant parties or their representatives.  Given the availability of email communication, the Court expects this requirement is easily met.

Court Users Generally

8. If it is necessary to contact a Magistrate about a matter, other than a case to be decided by the Magistrate, contact should be through either:

  • the Magistrates' Secretary;
  • the Magistrates' Clerk; or
  • the Administrator of Courts.