I would like to start by wishing all members of the profession a happy New Year.  While the Omicron outbreak has created a number of challenges over the Christmas and New Year period, I hope you all had safe and restful break and found the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family.

Covid-19 promises to have a big impact on the way the coming legal year plays out.  The Chief Justice has already directed that jury trials will be delayed until at least mid-March.  While this is disappointing from the perspective of the backlog in criminal cases in the Supreme Court, it was only sensible decision that could be made in the context of the risks associated with the currently level of COVID transmission in the State.  My thoughts are with criminal practitioners affected by this decision and I hope that a further delay in jury trials will not be necessary.

As previously advised, the Society has regretfully decided to postpone the Opening of the Legal Year Dinner which was to be held on 28 January 2022. Whilst disappointing, the current high rate of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus made the decision an obvious one in the circumstances. It is the Society’s intention to hold a mid-winter dinner for the profession which I hope will be well supported. Further information is in this Update.

I would personally like to congratulate Sarah Kay on her appointment as Solicitor-General and Shaun McElwaine SC on his appointment to the Federal Court Bench.  Both are excellent appointments.  I had the fortune of working closely with Ms Kay for five years early in my career in the Office of Solicitor-General and consider that she has one of the sharpest legal minds that I have encountered.  As the second Law Officer of the State, Ms Kay will be an asset to the Crown and the Profession more generally.

While Justice McElwaine’s suitability for the role is clear, his appointment is particularly pleasing given that he was a member of the Tasmania Legal Profession and will be based in the State.  In late November I wrote to the Federal Attorney-General drawing her attention to the fact that Tasmania has a number of very talented potential candidates who are highly suitable for Federal Court appointment.  I also emphasised that the selection of a Tasmanian designated Federal Court member from the local profession sends a vital message to members of the Tasmanian profession that they will not be professionally isolated or disadvantaged by their decision to remain in Tasmania.  From an administration of justice perspective, it also vital that we have a Tasmanian-based Federal Court Judge because, to put it simply, more people will use and practice in the Federal Court if it physically sits in this State.  Justice McElwaine will be an asset to the Bench and the State in this role.

My thoughts are with you all in this difficult time.  I wish you a safe start to the year.

Simon Gates