17 December 2010

Constitutional review: broad cross-party support?

The constitutional review was finally announced last week:

- www.beehive.govt.nz/release/govt-begins-cross-party-constitutional-review

It's a long-term project, so forgive me if I take my time to digest it before posting more.

I shared some of my initial reactions on the Court Report this week:

- tvnz.co.nz/the-court-report/court-report-index-group-3602627

And my law buddy, Andrew Geddis, has some typically wise analysis and a set of predications over at Pundit:

- www.pundit.co.nz/content/what-the-constitutional-review-will-recommend-you-heard-it-here-first

But, one thought to set the rolling maul of constitutional navel-gazing off.

Bill English proclaimed that any significant constitutional changes would require overwhelming support:

"Significant change will not be undertaken lightly and will require either broad cross-party agreement or the majority support of voters at a referendum,"

Good call.

But, based on this principle, does that mean the government won't be amending the jury trial threshold in our Bill of Rights unless they can garner broad cross-party support for the change?


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Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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