An account of the 10 minutes before the interim orders hearing on the “free speech” Council venue cases

At last!  A case (a) involving interesting issues; (b) broadly within my (very small) legal wheelhouse; (c) not involving a client; and (d) in the Auckland, not the Wellington, High Court.  Perhaps I could contribute an account of the hearing.  That is, after all, how this account started.

And so I dutifully ducked out of work and bounced up Constitution Hill (that’s literally its English name) to the High Court.  2.00pm for a 2.15pm tee-off time.  In my step, some pep.  And in my hand, a polite letter to the presiding judge seeking permission to take notes in the public gallery.  The letter said I was a lawyer attending the hearing in my private capacity.  I wrote that “the purpose of the notes is to assist my personal recollection of matters discussed in open court, with a view to later writing something about the hearing”.  I didn’t mention the blog specifically because frankly that seemed a bit vain.  “Surely you must have heard of me, your Honour?”  Blurgh.  No thanks.

I got a nice message back from the judge, handwritten on my letter, declining the request.  It read:

Accredited media are entitled to observe and record what happens in court proceedings.  There are limits on even the parties being able to take notes during the hearing. 

You are free to observe the hearing but, given the private nature of your interest, permission has to be declined.

I appreciated the consideration.  But without the ability to take notes there was no way to ensure I could quote accurately what were liable to be somewhat involved legal submissions.

So the post has to end here, unfortunately.  I think the requirement to have to ask permission is a good requirement.  I’m also not interested in having a good old moan about the correctness or otherwise of the particular decision.  I have lots of thoughts but I don’t think that a blog post is the right place to do that and mightn’t be fair to the judge, whose decision I respect. 

Without the ability to take notes, I wouldn’t be able to write what I wanted, so I opted not to stay.  As always, there was a stack of work back at the office that needed to be done.  And so a bounce down Constitution Hill.  Letter in hand but no pep in step.  

I encourage you to read this from Bridgette Toy-Cronin about the rule of taking notes in Court.  


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