Friday, March 2, 2012

On being in court as a Clerk

I am sure we all think things we would never, ever say. I often do, but recently I have had this fear the filter between my brain and mouth will fail. It started with the little things such like when doing Jessup the judges are addressed at ‘Your Excellency’ where in the real courts in Australia they are addressed as ‘Your Honour’. More than once while addressing a Magistrates ‘You Excellency’ has almost fallen out of my mouth, it came out like your ‘Exel-Onour’, pretty sure I am the only one that noticed but still.. Then there is this very particular way of talking to a judge, all too formal and full of wankery I am yet to wrap my head around.

A fair whack of my job is sitting in court waiting for all the barristers and solicitors to be called on to have their matter mentioned and subsequently moved through the criminal court process before the clerks. This can mean sitting in a court from 9:00 to about 11:00 or 12:00 before my file is called. Usually what I need to say is along the lines of:

‘Good morning Your Honour. For the record my name is Ovum spelt O V U M initials O a law clerk for Great Firm seeking leave to appear on behalf of Ms Smith. (Magistrate gives me leave, unless it is a particular Magistrate who likes to toy with clerks and answers with a ‘Depends Mr Ovum’) ‘Your Honour, case conferencing has commenced and we are seeking an X week adjournment to allow case conferencing to continue’. They usually grant the time sought and I get to go back to the office.

When asked by a Judge weather I am aware of a particular thing on a case which I have little to no knowledge about instead of simply saying ‘I don’t know, can I make a call?’, the correct protocol is to say something to the effect of ‘my apologies Your Honour, I do not have those instructions or carriage of the matter, may I seek a adjournment so I can call the Solicitor who can give me the proper instructions,? Thank you.’

Yes it may seem simple enough but when you are expecting to say a very quick 3 lines, get given a date and that is all any deviation from what I am expecting terrifies me, especially because often have little to no idea of what is going on with the file. When they are asking a question my internal monologue is ‘shit, shit, shit, I don’t know, shit, the magistrate is going to spank me, shit’. I am constantly scared when answering I will just babble like a fool or get it wrong. Mooting has actually helped with this but wow it is still terrifying.

I thought my job was going to help with my mooting, turns out the mooting has actually helped with the real world - funny that.

Today is one of those days where you left your house/car keys at work, travel in only to realise the swipe key is also on the desk, you are also locked out of the house and nobody is home so blogging from uni and maybe a little forced study is in order.

Going to be a long, boring day – Obiter.

1 comment:

  1. we've all had *those* kinds of days. *sigh*

    always look over your file before entering the courtroom. even if it's just a quick flick over the top few pages.

    getting caught flat-footed will happen. but it is embarrassing. for everyone. you'll get a lot more slack until you're admitted. then the game gets real.

    on the upside, you're getting the hang of things - at least you know what you're supposed to say ... i've had to follow on from someone who had pissed off the magistrate for a good ten minutes as they fluffed every one of a half-dozen submissions. and i was looking for a little latitude for my client. everyone got their dancing shoes on?

    having a quick look over a file is essential. it can give you a heads up on possible issues: such as a client running late for an appearance who is out on bail...

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