Chief justice weighs in on Federal-Family courts merger

Chief Justice Diana Bryant has come out in support of a full merger between the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court, following the court’s backroom functions merger.

Last month the backroom operations of the Federal Circuit Court were brought under control of the Federal Court and according to a report published by The Australian today, there is talk of a full Federal Court-Family Court merger.
 
Chief justice Diana Bryant may be the court’s last chief justice when she steps down in October next year, according to one theory that the government might abolish the family court completely.
 
Various merger suggestions over the years have been met with criticism by the legal profession, but speaking at a conference last month, Bryant said bringing the courts together “may be worth another look”.
 
Murmurs of a merger follow the apparent success of merged backroom functions.
 
“It’s early days, but now you have two courts (the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court) ­exercising pretty much concurrent jurisdiction with separate budgets competing for resources,” Bryant told The Australian.
 
“I wonder whether in the long term that’s sustainable. If other people are wondering the same thing, then obviously a model where you have one superior court instead of two might be an attractive model.
 
“Having now set up two courts (the Family Court in 1976 and the FCC in 2000), which are competing for resources, with the same cohort of litigants, it may well be problematic.”
 
She did say that she doesn’t believe the Family Circuit Court should take over all the trial work from the Family Court, saying that some trial work should be done by a superior, specialist trial court.
 
“That doesn’t stop that work being a division of the Federal Court,” she said, spruiking the England and Wales system, where family law cases are heard by a specialist Family Division of the High Court of Justice.
 

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