I have to appear as an expert witness this morning

In a couple of hours’ time in the Federal Court. It’s the first time I’ve been called upon to do this. I’m quite looking forward to the experience.

They’re asking you about cuncting?

I appeared as an expert witness once, for an annexation hearing.

Put the judge to sleep, I did.


Now that we can bring our tablet notebooks into court it’s much easier.
It used to suck when a defense attorney would ask about a conversation from three years ago and I’d be on the stand deer-in-a-headlight staring back.
I still hate it though.

What are you an expert of?

I’m an actuary.

My evidence went pretty well, but it was hard going at times. Describing the concept of estimating insurance liabilities is difficult when the judge is relatively innumerate.

What’s the role of the Federal Court in Australia? does it have a broad jurisdiction, or is it a relatively specialized court? is it comparable in number of judges to the state courts? does it sit primarily in Canberra, or does it have a substantial presence throughout Australia? does the average barrister appear in it very often?

(in case you can’t tell, I’m a court jurisdiction geek :smiley: )

Reminds me of a story about Frank Lloyd Wright testifying in court.

He was asked to describe his qualifications, and said something like, “I am America’s greatest living architect”.

Later, a friend told him that he didn’t come off very well, being so full of himself. Couldn’t he have said something else?

Wright replied, “But I was under oath. I had to tell the truth”.

Dear Cunctator: I largely know you through your Cafe Society posts about upcoming performances or broadcasts of your choir(s). I’m almost disappointed to find out you were an expert witness because of your other hobby. My wife and I had been giddily speculating that Australian law allowed for courts martial for conductors or section leaders who fuck up in performance.

Judge: Tell the court in your own words what happened on the evening of Dec. 12th.

Cunctator: Your Honour, Messiah had been proceeding as rehearsed until the twelfth measure of Number Seven.

Judge: And He shall purify?

Cunctator: Precisely, Your Honour. This was the moment where Maestro Bligh’s tempi began to prove erratic, willful and extremely difficult to follow.

Right. I’ll get back to painting, then.

There’s some basic information about the Federal Court here. In essence it’s the court of original jurisdiction for Commonwealth (federal) statutes. There’s some more detail about its jurisdiction here.

According to its website, there are currently 46 judges of the Federal Court. As a comparison, the website for the Supreme Court of New South Wales (the highest court in the NSW state court hierarchy) lists 49 current judges (including appeal court judges). So the Federal Court is roughly comparable in size to the NSW Supreme Court.

It sits in all capital cities in Australia. It has several floors of the court complex in Sydney, so it’s a pretty substantial presence.

Alas, I’m not in a position to answer that one. But at the hearing I attended, the senior counsel was a QC. So I’d guess it’s more the higher echelons of the bar that tend to appear there.

Sadly I need a day job to pay for the hobby.

Oh, if only that were the case! Imagine the dramas we would witness in court.:slight_smile:

I’m still waiting for “The Castle: The Musical.” Imagine what we might get in those courts:

Airport: We want to move the Kerrigan tribe!
Dennis Denuto: But you can’t!
Airport: Why not?
Dennis Denuto: It’s the vibe, it’s the vibe, it’s the viiiibe!


Are higher court judges in Australia still addressed as “My Lord” (or “My Lady”) as in England and Canada?

I’ve only ever heard or seen references to “Your Honour”.

In matters meriting senior counsel, almost invariably a SC or QC will appear. However, there are plenty of matters in the Fed that are competently represented by junior counsel. Take high volume litigation like bankruptcy, Corporations Law and migration. Although a lot of these come on appeal from the Fed Magistrates Court.

Interesting - from the links Cunctator posted, it looks like the Australian Federal Court is similar to the Canadian Federal Court, but with a wider jurisdiction, such as bankruptcy, which is not in our Federal Court’s jurisdiction. Another point of comparison is that both were created in the mid-seventies. Prior to that, in Canada, almost all federal matters were dealt with in the provincial superior courts, except for federal taxation and suits against the federal Crown, which were handled by the Exchequer Court.

What was the impetus for the creation of the Australian Federal Court, 70+ years after Australia was federated? and how were questions of federal law dealt with before then?

It’s not used universally in Canada.

The Supreme Court judges go by “Justice So-and-So” or “Monsieur le judge Untel”.

In Ontario, “My Lord/My Lady” is reserved for the Court of Appeal.

Can’t remember what it is in Quebec, but I don’t think they use “My Lord” or “Votre Seigneurie” anymore.

I’m not really sure. Growth in the amount of federal legislation, thus needing a separate court? Or perhaps a swing in the federal/state balance? The early 1970s was a period of strong pro-federalism.

The website notes that:

So it appears that, prior to the Federal Court, the jurisdiction was shared across the HCA and two other, earlier courts. I think the state Supreme courts probably picked up some of the cases too.