Hiding behind “cab rank principle” is unethical

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Brian Walters is the Greens Party candidate for Melbourne. He is also a barrister and SC.

Recently, it has come to light that Walters has investments in QLD coal interests and represented a coal company over the workplace death of a union delegate at a mine.

These facts are not smears. Neither Walters nor the Greens Party apparatchiks that run his PR have denied the facts – instead they deny the inferences that come from the facts. That Brian Walters was obligated to take the case defending the coal company on the grounds that the “cab rank principle” applied.

The “cab rank principle“, as I understand it is:

the obligation of a barrister to accept any work in a field in which he professes himself competent to practise, at a court at which he normally appears and at his usual rates

On this principle, people accused of even heinous crimes can receive legal representation.

The Greens Party is an organisation that holds other people to high standards of ethical behaviour. Brian Walters says that:

Our political system is the way we arrange the community’s conversation about the use of power.

He also writes:

The rule of law is not so much about having laws – even tyrants have laws – as having checks on the exercise of power. Nazi Germany had laws – and a lot of them – but no one would argue that it was a society subject to the rule of law. A central feature of the rule of law is that it allows the courts to stand between the citizen and the government and to determine disputes between them. Courts provide a check on the exercise of governmental power that protect the citizen from arbitrary abuse of power.

Now, I would say that a point Walters is making about tyrants and the rule of law is that there are bad laws which are abuses of power. In tyrannical societies, people without power suffer at the hands of those with power. In such a society, a despised person may not receive legal representation. Without the “cab rank principle”, our legal system would collapse as rapists, murderers or holocaust deniers are unable to be represented in court.

The powerful will always be able to pay for legal representation – in a liberal democratic society like Australia or in a tyrannical society. The cab rank principle it seems to me, is intended for those without power or privilege – and certainly not corporations or companies – who are typically able to foot the bill.

A rule – the cab rank principle – that is blindly followed can lead to perverse outcomes. A rule by itself needs values behind it. If its intent is to provide representation to those that could not ordinarily get it, should it be arbitrarily followed in a way that gives representation to those who could afford it without the need to refer to the cab rank principle? Should people who can afford a private limo be taking up places in the cab rank?

If the point of our political system and legal system is about the arrangement of power as Walters argues, where does that leave him?

One of the ways we make a contribution to the world is through our choice and pursuit of a career. Whatever choice we make, our vocation has more importance than the pay packet attached to it: it is a way of getting to know ourselves and the world, and of helping others. I believe a vocation should build the world into a better place.

The vocation you take is a way to know someone. It should make the world a better place. Ethics are important.

“You could make up excuses, but my ethics mean that if you have subscribed to the ethics of my profession you have to stick by them.”

On that criteria, should Brian Walters have prioritised the “ethics” of the cab rank principle above his ideal of “building the world into a better place”? Are arbitrarily applied rules worse than not following those rules if to do so would lead to an unethical outcome, or an outcome that violated your ethical standards?

It is clear that many lawyers do not subscribe to the “cab rank principle” when to do so would seriously undermine their own values. For example, several Labor-aligned lawyers refused to take on Patrick Stevedores during the waterfront dispute in 1998. Similarly, Peter Faris QC refuses to take on clients accused of rape, Nazism or terrorism, on ethical grounds.

Brian Walters says that the courts provide a system to prevent the arbitrary exercise of power by government over citizens. He is unfortunately silent about the arbitrary use of power gained through wealth (the power of corporations) on citizens.

Hiding behind the “cab rank principle” as an ethical shield at the expense of your other stated values and morals – using your vocation to build the world into a better place – is hypocritical. Furthermore, Walters – who is forced to accept the brief – is profiting handsomely from the “cab rank principle”.

The fact that the legal profession has come out to defend Walters is hardly surprising. It is in their interests to perpetuate the “cab rank principle” as many would rely on it as their own moral shield. Lawyers are long practiced at defending things they don’t really believe in.

Walters argues that:

We have a choice in governing our society – a choice between some having unbridled power – the rule of the despot, the rule of whim – and a society with clear laws which provide checks to the exercise of power – the rule of law. it is, at heart, the choice between tyranny and democracy.

What he ignores – perhaps deliberately – is that the real unchecked exercise of power comes from those with wealth against those without.

Walters says that:

The suggestion by Labor that I should pick and choose is a suggestion that I should behave unethically and that the rule of law does not matter.

Is it not more ethical to stand up to a law – or Bar Rule – that would result in unjust or unethical outcomes? To say “no” to a case that fundamentally opposed your own ethics?

Real life is not like Boston Legal, where you can sit on the balcony at the end of the episode and talk yourself through some kind of ethical catharsis.

For someone seeking public office, belonging to a political party that has firm principles, standards and ethics, surely greater judgement is needed than to just accept such briefs? The fact that so many otherwise ethical people came out in defence of Walters – the same people who would abjectly condemn a Labor-aligned lawyer or candidate for the same offence – demonstrates the hypocrisy of this situation.

It demonstrates that the Greens Party are just another political party, willing to turn themselves into sophistic knots to justify when one of their own does something unjustifiable.

Addendum:

Brian Walters also seems to be willfully misusing the term “rule of law” in his rebuttal of criticism. He states that Labor effectively does not believe in the rule of law because of questions raised about the ethics of accepting a coal company as a client.

This is of course nonsense peddled by someone who is trying to avoid the substantive question while constructing a straw man.

The Rule of Law (an elusive concept) is defined by the UN as: “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws”. It is the notion that everyone is accountable to the law – even agents of the government, like police and Ministers. It also includes things like fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

I cannot for the life of me see how “picking and choosing” becomes “the rule of law does not matter”.

Of course, Brian Walters is a lawyer. He is used to making spurious arguments in defence of things that he does not really believe in.

It is a pity that Walters does not stand by his ethics. When using the maxim of judging someone by what they do, not what they say, Brian Walters fails. He says that ethics, power and making the world a better place are important.

But what he does is defend coal companies in cases where a union delegate has died on the job.

Perhaps the many human rights and pro bono cases he takes are his own recognition of this fact – perhaps he is trying to assuage his guilt.

Addendum II

Just a note on renowned Greens Party lawyer Jeremy Sear’s defence of Walters (available at the Crikey Blogs site). Sear is obviously defending the “cab rank principle” – as you would expect a lawyer to do. Sear argues that Walters should be excused from any charges of unethical behaviour on the basis that he’s just “following the rules“. Despite this, Sear is vehemently critical of the idea of anything impinging on someone’s ability to express their views – such as the binding caucus.

He writes:

That said, there’s something fundamentally insincere about running for either of the major parties, since their platforms are so broad and contradictory and you know that you may well be forced to vote against what you believe by party discipline anyway – so it’s disingenuous to pretend to the voters that you’ll stand up for your own personal beliefs when you know you’ll throw them away when ordered to by your colleagues who may be from the opposite wing of the party.

Of course, for a lawyer seeking public office, it’s just “following the rules”. For a person in the major parties, it’s “fundamentally insincere”. On the one hand, you have a “cab rank principle” being used as ethical cover by Walters for defending a coal company, and on the other, MPs from major political parties are insincere for being “forced to vote against” what they believe.

Sear holds everyone, except for Greens Party candidates, by very high ethical standards. But being a lawyer, he is prepared to argue against what he believes to defend Brian Walters.

Addendum III

The blogosphere is an interesting place. Iain Hall, a bearded blogger about whom I know nothing, has quoted the “cab rank principle” from the Victorian Bar association. Read them all here.

Now, there is plenty of wriggle room here. Hall writes (and by quoting him I do not endorse his blog, his views or his politics since I know nothing about him or his writings except this one post):

In essence our learned friend is claiming that his profession is some sort of grand debating society that is obliged to argue that black is white if the brief demands it and that by doing so the cause of justice is very well served because everyone gets the best possible defence. Well that is rather noble and even worthy of praise but I can’t help thinking that he is rather gilding the lily when he suggest that a brief can never be declined“The point is that he’s not entitled to refuse the brief just because it’s from a coal company,”he says and by the rules that certainly is superficially true but looking at the rules themselves its clear that there are enough caveats and legitimate reasons that a brief may be declined that would allow a barrister to wriggle out of the “obligation” to accept any brief should they really want to.

Additionally, just because Brian Walters is a Greens candidate and lawyer, doesn’t mean he should be immune to scrutiny or questions about how his profession jibes with his personal ethics.

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56 Responses to “Hiding behind “cab rank principle” is unethical”

  1. Even if not for the cab rank principle – and the point of it is that it applies universally, not to some arbitrarily-defined definition of "good" and "bad", "deserving" and "undeserving" clients – you've utterly failed to show how Walters' accepting the brief was in some way "hypocrisy". You say:

    "Is it not more ethical to stand up to a law – or Bar Rule – that would result in unjust or unethical outcomes? To say “no” to a case that fundamentally opposed your own ethics?"

    In what way did Walters' taking the brief "result in unjust or unethical outcomes"? In what way was arguing for a legal principle with which Walters presumably agrees "fundamentally opposed to [his] own ethics"?

    The Greens think we shouldn't rely on the coal industry and that our governments should be establishing alternatives and shutting it down. I'm yet to see the Greens' argue that coal companies do not deserve the same rights in court as anyone else. Hence no hypocrisy.

    It's a smear. It's trying to taint him by innuendo for those who won't think past coal=bad, coal companies=bad therefore believing they have rights before the law=bad. It's stupid and illogical but it is very, very prejudicial. It's dirty politics and Labor deserves to be slammed for it.

    • My point about the case is not that it is a coal company (that is just how it was reported) but that a company be defended by a person standing for a party that supposedly supports introducing industrial manslaughter to the criminal code. I don't think it's just that companies should continue to use their large wallets to escape punishment for industrial manslaughter or deaths in workplaces caused by negligence (or any death in a workplace attributable to the action or inaction of management), and rely on the slick arguments of a highly paid SC to do so.

      The reality is that big corporations don't get treated like "everyone else". They get treated like powerful, wealthy organisations that can buy they best legal advice and representation money can afford. Everyone else has to wait on legal aid or pay for their own lawyer.

      "In what way was arguing for a legal principle with which Walters presumably agrees "fundamentally opposed to [his] own ethics"?

      Walters says that you should judge a person on their vocation and how they "build a better world". I question how defending a coal company over the death of a worker "builds a better world" or goes anywhere towards correcting the power imbalance that he seems to think is so important to the profession of being a lawyer.

      You judge a person by their actions, not just their words. It's not a smear to do that, and you, Jeremy, are diminished for saying so. But of course, you're a lawyer and have a vested interest in defending this state of affairs.

  2. "I don't think it's just that companies should continue to use their large wallets to escape punishment for industrial manslaughter or deaths in workplaces caused by negligence (or any death in a workplace attributable to the action or inaction of management), and rely on the slick arguments of a highly paid SC to do so. "

    Got any evidence that that is what's happened in this case, or what's going to happen? Or are you just going to assume that Walters is a "hypocrite" ahead of time because he's a political opponent?

    "I question how defending a coal company over the death of a worker "builds a better world""

    Depends whether they're being blamed fairly or not.

    The ironic thing about this is that it takes a barrister running for the Greens before the Herald Sun and the ALP decide they don't like the cab rank principle.

    PS Quoting Faris enthusiastically doesn't exactly help your case.

    • "Got any evidence that that is what's happened in this case, or what's going to happen? Or are you just going to assume that Walters is a "hypocrite" ahead of time because he's a political opponent?"

      No, and I don't comment on the facts of the case in question – just the general principles of it. Additionally, I readily admit to being a partisan when it comes to politics.

      "Depends whether they're being blamed fairly or not."

      I think it's questionable that workplace deaths of any kind (attributable to management or not) makes the world a better place. Good to see you engage in sophistry when it suits you to defend your own political side though.

      "Quoting Faris enthusiastically doesn't exactly help your case."

      Huh? I assume you wrote this because Faris defended the use of torture in some cases? Even if not, surely the arguments stands on its own merit – you aren't bound by the cab rank principle unless you want to be. I hope you're not suggesting that criticism of the cab rank principle is illegitimate because (torture defending) Peter Faris disagrees with it?

  3. Oh, and I find your assertion that I'm defending a fundamental principle of justice out of "a vested interest" quite repulsive. Plenty of clients I'd rather not represent – and they're usually the worst-paying ones, too – but I take my duty to the courts and the law very seriously. It's not about me, it's about equality before the law.

    • I made a general point about lawyers (like you) having a vested interest in defending a system that allows them to continue to practice their vocation (as Brian Walters puts it) in violation of their principles and ethics on the grounds that "its the rules" and/or "it's equality before the law". The cab rank principle does ensure that some people receive representation who otherwise wouldn't.

      I think it's fairly asinine to argue that a wealthy coal mining company has to contend with being discriminated against in the law courts because they "can't afford it". I'd also contend that there are plenty of lawyers out there how would have no moral or ethical problems defending this company, aside from Brian Walters, candidate for the Greens political party.

      Are you disputing that lawyers could seek exemption from the cab rank principle if they felt strongly about a particular client or case? That really would be something.

    • Also, am I wrong assume you're comfortable with me asserting your hypocrisy in regard to opposing "we're just following the rules" argument for major party MPs who have to toe the party line, vs lawyers who are "just following the rules" when they defend something they regard as ethically wrong.

  4. Hardly. I doubt that Walters views advocating for a legal position regardless of who the client happens to be as "ethically wrong". It's entirely consistent with an ethical stance of equality before the law.

    He's following a rule THAT MAKES A LOT OF SENSE. That he presumably agrees with.

    If major party MPs want to just toe the party line then good for them – if that's contrary to their personal ethics, then that's their problem. My point is that we as voters should pick representatives who DON'T have to cave in constantly to the other side and actually vote along with it. I'm a lefty – I don't want my MPs voting as the Labor Right would have it. I suspect many other people agree with me on that. That's why the Greens party vote is growing, after all.

    I don't see any hypocrisy or inconsistency in what I'm arguing above.

    Faris – well, google the sort of stuff he gets up to. Of course he'd bash the Greens (he's an arch right-winger) and the Bar (given his history with it). His argument is stupid, but consider the source.

    "No, and I don't comment on the facts of the case in question – just the general principles of it. Additionally, I readily admit to being a partisan when it comes to politics. "

    Ah, of course. So you'll just throw around words like "hypocrite" first and not even bother asking questions after.

    "I think it's questionable that workplace deaths of any kind (attributable to management or not) makes the world a better place."

    What a stupid thing to say. Yeah, Walters is up there advocating for workplace deaths. Right.

    • It's entirely consistent with an ethical stance of equality before the law.

      And it's handy that he's making a pretty penny in doing so. It'd be nice to have the luxury of defending a case with a pre-made ethical shield.

      I ask again. Are you disputing that lawyers could seek exemption from the cab rank principle if they felt strongly about a particular client or case?

  5. "And it's handy that he's making a pretty penny in doing so."

    Sure, let's ignore the points I made. I'm not sure what you're saying here – that the assumed decent fees of an SC make him ineligible for Greens party membership? That only the utterly impoverished may support or run for progressive causes? That the only non-hypocritical rich person is one who works hard to keep the poor down?

    " It'd be nice to have the luxury of defending a case with a pre-made ethical shield. "

    That's the joy of being an ethical person and doing things ethically. Although calling it a "shield" is misleading, because the point is that it's about being ethical all the way through.

    "I ask again. Are you disputing that lawyers could seek exemption from the cab rank principle if they felt strongly about a particular client or case? "

    Lawyers can. Barristers can't.

    And nor should they.

    And you're yet to give any reason why his actions in this case are inconsistent with anything he's actually argued.

    • There is no earthly reason that someone like Brian Walters couldn't have gotten out of representing this coal company – no one forced him to. He could have said he was too busy, or asked for dispensation from the Bar.

      Walters claims to be a man of ethics. It shows the measure of his character that he meekly decided to take a case representing a coal company involved in the death of a worker.

      In fact, if Walters HAD refused to take the case, it would speak to a greater strength of character.

      Sear, you argue that Walters shouldn't be subject to the "guilt by association" principle because of the "cab rank principle" – yet you regularly smear the Labor party for what associates (like Stephen Newnham) do.

      As for your Faris comment: see William Bowe:

      Not knowing much about the niceties of the Bar, I personally was intrigued by Faris’s argument that the cab rank rule is there to ensure rapists, murderers and the like receive representation despite public opprobrium, and that it hardly applies where deep-pocketed mining companies are concerned. There may well be a valid counter-argument, but all we’ve heard here is the following:

      - Faris is a conservative
      - He used to chair the National Crime Authority
      - He called for Quentin Bryce to resign
      - He split up with Felicity
      - Sunday Herald Sun-Andrew Bolt-Peter Faris

      All good sport I suppose, but can anyone actually explain to me why his argument is wrong? I ask this in a genuine spirit of curiosity.
      http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2010/11/05

  6. "There is no earthly reason that someone like Brian Walters couldn't have gotten out of representing this coal company"

    Other than principle. Oh, and no actual reason being given why he should have.

    "He could have said he was too busy, or asked for dispensation from the Bar. "

    He could've been unethical and lied, you mean.

    "Walters claims to be a man of ethics. It shows the measure of his character that he meekly decided to take a case representing a coal company involved in the death of a worker. "

    So much buried in that disingenuous little word "involved", isn't there Alex?

    "Sear, you argue that Walters shouldn't be subject to the "guilt by association" principle because of the "cab rank principle" – yet you regularly smear the Labor party for what associates (like Stephen Newnham) do. "

    You'll need to give me an example of what you're talking about there. But if ALP allies run a filthy smear to the ALP's political advantage, and the ALP doesn't distance itself from it – I'd probably criticise that.

    As for your Faris comment, read a little further in the Pollbludger thread. Rod gives some fairly relevant context.

    Don't know why you're so keen to ignore Faris' obvious motivations here, when you're so quick to insult everyone else's simply on the ground that they're barristers.

    • He could've been unethical and lied, you mean.

      I'm giving examples that contradict statements that Walters couldn't get out of the cab rank rule no matter what.

      This issue is all about holding Brian Walters to the same high ethical standards that the Greens political party holds other people and parties to.

  7. Coal Company Solicitor rings Walters SC and asks him whether he will accept a brief. Walters SC politely says: 'Thank-you for the call. Before we discuss this any further, let me tell you a couple of things. I plan on entering politics as a Greens MP. My platform will be contrary to the interests of your client. Anyhow, if your client still wants me as their counsel, I will of course act for it'

    Walters SC never hears from Coal Company Solicitor, who briefs one of the many other hundreds of lawyers willing and able to do the work.

    Do you think this entirely reasonable and entirely ethical conversation happened? Of course not. The fact is, Walters SC was offered a brief, and he accepted it because he was comfortable being paid for that work.

    Remember this: you can act consistently with Rule 86 of the Bar Rules, and still be a hypocrite.

    • Alternatively, coal company solicitor briefs Walters through his clerk, who knows he's available and takes such work.

      Walters is ethically obliged to accept the brief.

      And as it happens, there's no "hypocrisy" in him taking it anyway, since he's never argued that coal companies should not have equal right to be represented before the courts.

      • I find it incredible that you would so vigourously defend a man who doesn't even identify himself as a "lefty", and who would be happy to support Ted Baillieu to form government.

        • Maybe I'm arguing for a perfectly cogent principle against a really stupid attack, and it doesn't really matter how much of a "lefty" the victim is.

          Although – wtf? "Would be happy to support Ted Baillieu to form government"? Link, please.

          • Brian Walters on Stateline, 27 August in answer to a question of whether he could work with either Baillieu or Brumby:

            It remains to be seen. That's a completely hypothetical question, but the Greens have supported a Liberal government before. We did that from 1996 to 1998 in Tasmania. All options will be open. We won't shut any option off.

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/08/27/29958

            The Greens leader who supported the Liberals in Tasmania? Christine Milne.

            • Ah, so he didn't say he "would be happy to support Ted Baillieu to form government". That was a cynical exaggeration.

              He said that they wouldn't shut any options off.

              And, given how right-wing Labor can be, nor should they.

              Provided that Labor isn't as bad as the Liberals, though, the Greens always support it.

              • If you seriously think (like Walters and Barber) that there isn't a difference between Labor and Liberal (even the Labor Right), see what the Liberals in Western Australia are up to:
                http://www.noworkchoicesinwa.com/

                The Barnett Government has undertaken a review of Western Australian workplace laws and could soon announce changes that could affect up to 300,000 Western Australian workers.

                Former Howard Government industrial relations advocate Steven Amendola was appointed by former Minister Troy Buswell to head the review, with Mr Amendola providing his final 198-recommendation report to Mr Buswell in December last year.

                Origianlly valued at $500,000, the cost of the review blew out by more than 60 per cent to cost more than $850,000, after Mr Buswell failed to put a contract in place with Mr Amendola.

                Under the terms of reference announced by Mr Buswell, Mr Amendola was asked to specifically identify areas of legislative reform in areas including:

                - Individual versus collective agreements;
                - The award safety net;
                - Minimum wages;
                - Statutory minimum conditions of employment; and
                - Unfair dismissal.

                In announcing the review, Mr Buswell identified that up to 30 per cent of WA employees were covered by the State system, mostly in unincorporated small business and in the State’s public sector. With the Western Australian workforce consisting of just over 1 million people, more than 300,000 people could be affected by changes to Western Australia’s workplace laws.

                • The Greens have never supported the Liberals in any way in relation to industrial relations.

                  Have you given up on the substantive argument below, now?

                • You said "He said that they wouldn't shut any options off. And, given how right-wing Labor can be, nor should they."

                  Then you said "The Greens have never supported the Liberals in any way in relation to industrial relations."

                  How do these two statements stand together? Should the Greens Party rule out supporting the Liberals on the basis of IR? I'd also suggest the Greens Party should rule out (as Adam Bandt did) supporting the Liberals because of their atrocious record on everything – like climate change, environment, women's rights, Indigenous rights, the economy, etc.

                  Of course, you say Brian Walters is right to not shut off any options. I assume you would be happy for Baillieu to be Premier with Greens Party support?

                • This is just a hypothetical, but if the ALP was so bad on every other issue that the Greens felt the Liberals were the lesser of two evils, then they could conceivably allow them to form government while voting against anything nasty they tried on IR.

                  Parliamentary democracy is amazing, Alex.

                  Still, let's hope the ALP manages not to be so bad that it becomes necessary.

                • Jesus Jeremy, you live in complete fantasy lawyer land if you think Labor is anywhere near as bad as the Liberals.

                • I didn't say they were, at present. I said IF they were.

                  (And sometimes they are.)

                  Sorry, the ALP doesn't own progressives, and when it goes too far to the right it shouldn't rely on our support automatically.

                • More sophistry from Mr Sear. Nice hair split there. I stand corrected. You did indeed say "if".

                  Sorry, the Greens political party doesn't own progressives, and when the Greens Party come up with "imaginary" policies, it shouldn't assume that it is beyond criticism.

                • What "imaginary" policies are you talking about now?

                  And it's hardly "sophistry". You're trying to claim all progressive parties must automatically back the ALP. Regardless of what the ALP does! Because the Liberals are always worse!

                  The thing is, when the ALP lunges to the right, that's not necessarily true.

                • Simple answer for you: provided that the ALP does not go further to the right than the Libs, I'm sure the Greens will support it ahead of them.

                  But of course, they'd much prefer to represent progressive directly. And we'd much prefer they did.

                • We're talking about right now. Right now Brian Walters says that he would be happy to support the Liberals and Ted Baillieu. So does Greg Barber.

                • That's not what he said in your link.

                • You're right. Brian Walters cited the time the Greens Party supported the Liberals in Tasmania and said "We won't shut any option off."

                  Any option. Pretty open, opportunistic, values-free statement.

                  At least Adam Bandt had the decency to rule out supporting Tony Abbott.

                • Since the Greens can't predict what Labor or Liberal will do in the future, promising to "support the ALP no matter what it does" would be pretty stupid.

                  The point is that, unlike the ALP, the Greens don't vote for right-wing legislation.

                  By the way, I'm enjoying the way that whenever you've completely lost a point you just ignore it and move on to the next one.

                • Jeremy, debating with you is like debating with the Greens Party version of Tim Blair. It doesn't matter what I say, you're always right, pure and are unassailably on higher moral ground. It's a shame, because four years ago you had a blog that was worth reading and wasn't full of vitriolic bile.

                • It'd matter more what you say if you'd actually respond to the points I make.

                • That's pretty funny. The Greens Party in Victoria votes with the Liberal Party 75% of the time – including legislation that would have required a referendum if any government wanted to build a nuclear power station. In the Federal Senate, the Greens Party voted with the most rabid climate deniers in the Coalition to block action on Climate Change.

                • "The Greens Party in Victoria votes with the Liberal Party 75% of the time"

                  And they vote with the Labor party even more.

                  And Labor and the Liberals vote together the majority of the time.

                  In other words, you know perfectly well that that "75%" statistic is very misleading, and you deliberately used it in a misleading fashion.

                  "including legislation that would have required a referendum if any government wanted to build a nuclear power station. In the Federal Senate"

                  Again, I wonder if you're ignorant here or being disingenuous. The Greens pushed for meaningful legislation that would allow members of parliament to call such a referendum; the ALP wanted one that could only be called by the Minister. IE a completely pointless copout, since the Minister wouldn't call a referendum against his own proposal.

                  "In the Federal Senate, the Greens Party voted with the most rabid climate deniers in the Coalition to block action on Climate Change. "

                  Because the ALP's plan was a step backwards.

                • "What "imaginary" policies are you talking about now?"
                  http://alexwhite.org/2010/10/yet-again-the-greens

  8. "I'm giving examples that contradict statements that Walters couldn't get out of the cab rank rule no matter what. "

    Stupid examples that would require him to behave unethically.

    "This issue is all about holding Brian Walters to the same high ethical standards that the Greens political party holds other people and parties to. "

    Sure it is. Perhaps, if that's what you're trying to do, you should come up with some argument as to how he's breached some ethical standard.

    You guys have had a week and still not presented anything. Is there any point at which you'll concede it's a beatup and the criticisms have no basis in reality?

    • Sure it is. Perhaps, if that's what you're trying to do, you should come up with some argument as to how he's breached some ethical standard.

      I've already made my case regarding Walters' character and ethics. I'm judging him by the standard of the political party he is a candidate of.

      You guys have had a week and still not presented anything.

      You guys? What the heck does that mean?

      Is there any point at which you'll concede it's a beatup and the criticisms have no basis in reality?

      I would, except that neither you nor any Greens party supporter have actually addressed the substance of the case. For example, apart from ad hominem attacks against Peter Faris and the Labor Party, you haven't answered any of the core points of the criticism of Brian Walters. In fact, all, Jeremy, you have done is diminish yourself with puerile attacks, sophistry and sarcasm.

  9. "I've already made my case regarding Walters' character and ethics. I'm judging him by the standard of the political party he is a candidate of. "

    Sorry, I can't see where you've demonstrated that he's said one thing and done another – you know, "hypocrisy".

    "you haven't answered any of the core points of the criticism of Brian Walters."

    Please outline these "core points", because so far all I've seen is the asinine line that somehow it's hypocritical to act for a client with whose other activities you do not personally agree.

  10. And all they've put is what I've responded to.

    If you've got some other "core points" that have been ignored, funny that you can't list them concisely.

    • Jeremy, you're a lawyer, so I assume that you can read. If so, I suggest you read the post above, which summarises the "core points". I'm not here to jump through arbitrary hoops that you decide are mandatory to make a point.

      • I've responded to all the points in your post above. If you feel some have not been answered adequately, please outline which you feel are still standing.

  11. Here you go, Alex – I've covered Faris' silly argument at Pure Poison:
    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/11/07/

  12. You know, I really enjoyed that exchange, but holy shit Jeremy, you're a goddamn wanker. Seriously. I look forward to discounting any contribution you make, from here on in.

  13. Given the vitriol you seem to have generated with this post, I hesitate to add to the mix! I'll keep it brief, pardon the pun.

    I think it's a very unfortunate line for the Labor Party to be focussing on one case taken by the candidate where he represented a company against a worker. Do we know the circumstances? Do we know who was in the right? No, these are more important questions, and yet I don't even think these things matter ultimately. The first cab off the rank principle is both a rule to be followed and a shield and so it should be. This allows all interests to be represented and means that barristers do not have to be identified directly with the parties they represent in argument in court. The same barristers who represent the prosecution represent the defence. The same barristers who represent coal companies represent charities.

    There is certainly some 'wriggle room' – though how much you rely on this is a matter of personal principal – and it is certainly the case that some barristers end up working overwhelmingly for one 'side' in their area of expertise and only get referred cases by one side. I don't see any evidence of this in the reporting or your blog. If he had worked on multiple cases for coal companies and/or regularly took anti-worker cases there might be a case.

    I am not in any way arguing that he's a good candidate, I don't know anything else about him and I'm not in a hurry to find out. But this focus form Labor on one case where he represented one company once and may have been representing the non-lefty side is just rubbish.

    To end on a positive, I haven't read any other writing that has been as well thought through an researched. I just think you're coming at it from the wrong angle.

    Ok that wasn't brief.

    • Josh – I'm not attacking the cab rank principle. As others have said, it serves a very important role in ensuring that people who otherwise wouldn't/couldn't get legal representation do so.

      I can't see how a coal company has to rely on the cab rank principle though.

      There is a thoughtful comment over on Crikey Blogs here:

      Could Walters have “got out” of the case? Almost certainly. Would he have had to compromise his principles in doing so? Well , this depends on both the nature of his principles and the nature of the case. He would certainly have been contravening “the letter” of the bar rules unless he had a real excuse but , yes, it is not uncommon for people to do this (Faris, not being a member of the Victorian Bar, doesn’t have to worry about such things at all, of course.)

      If this was a case, for example, in which the well-being and entitlements of a deceased worker’s family was under threat from a mining company’s hard nosed legal activity (as some have, seemingly incorrectly, tried to portray the matter) then that would be something that certainly might well justify breaching the bar rules on the basis of one’s ethical beliefs.

      This doesn’t seem to be the case at all, however. Instead it is apparently a case concerning the extent of liability of one of a number of companies between themselves, and the extent to which a criminal conviction may result for one or another of them. The actual employer of the worker who died has already accepted overall liability for his death, and, at least as I understand it, the family concerned will suffer no loss , nor gain any advantage, depending on the result of the matter in which Walters has been engaged.

      Does a situation like this warrant Walters breaking the rules of the bar of which he is a member by refusing to represent someone? Well, at the very least I think the question is an open one.

      http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollbludger/2010/11/05

      Once the rhetoric and partisanship have been removed, I think the question still stands.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jeremy Sear - November 7, 2010

    Me vs Alex White on the ALP vs Barristers if they happen to be @Greens: http://tinyurl.com/26emw36

  2. David Paris - November 7, 2010

    RT @jeremysear: Me vs Alex White on the ALP vs Barristers if they happen to be @Greens: http://tinyurl.com/26emw36

  3. Alessandro Jongklaas - November 7, 2010

    RT @jeremysear: Me vs Alex White on the ALP vs Barristers if they happen to be @Greens: http://tinyurl.com/26emw36

  4. vexnews - November 7, 2010

    Hiding behind “cab rank principle” is unethical for Greens party hypocrite Brian Walters argues Alex White http://j.mp/cPKhgm

  5. Norm Collins - November 7, 2010

    RT @vexnews: Hiding behind “cab rank principle” is unethical for Greens party hypocrite Brian Walters argues Alex White http://j.mp/cPKhgm

  6. Lyndsay Farlow - November 7, 2010

    RT @vexnews: Hiding behind “cab rank principle” is unethical for Greens party hypocrite Brian Walters argues Alex White http://j.mp/cPKhgm

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