News Reports

Protecting the small guy

Just because someone calls something an initiative, it doesn’t mean you have to use the word and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. The media reports are full of “initiatives’’, a whole **urrrhhh slew of them (as used in BT) – emerging from the courts. I suppose the word conveys the idea that something new will come to pass, and that it will be “good’’. I mean, is there such a thing as a “bad’’ initiative? If someone showed initiative, it probably means he used his brain quickly and came up with something fast, to the surprise of others. At least, that’s the way I “see’’ the word – and mine is NOT an expert point of view. Just saying…

Back to the subject at hand. So the new Chief Justice wants to do something about making sure people don’t head straight to court too quickly. He wants intermediate checkpoints of sorts along the way. So a core of lawyers will be around to provide legal advice on uncomplicated stuff for a fee. You know, we’ve heard several speeches over the years about making sure disputes are settled without the need to go before a judge and wasting time and money. Other CJs have also emphasised the use of Community Mediation Centres and other structures to reduce the cost of litigation. Whenever I see “new’’ initiatives announced, I keep wondering if this was because the old ones (bad initiatives?) didn’t work – or didn’t work well enough. Anyway, we don’t know.

I’m going to be snarky here and say that a reader in need of legal advice now (for a fee or pro bono) probably isn’t going to understand the media reports, which seem more intent on painting the “big picture’’, use big words like dispute resolution, facilitation and collaboration. What’s the news?

I think it’s something like this:

By the end of the year, a pool of lawyers will be on hand to help people who need basic legal matters sorted out. For a fixed fee, these lawyers also known as Primary Justice lawyers, will handle civil cases involving sums of less than $60,000. They will try resolve the matter so that it doesn’t have to go to court.

This is something new CJ Sundaresh Menon wants to introduce so that more people realise that they do not always have to go before a judge to get a dispute resolved. Cases can then be settled faster, cheaper and more amicably.

(I think at this stage I would have said something about how much a basic legal matter – more examples would be good – would have cost someone and how it drains the courts’ time. Also, how heavy the workload of the court is now and how stuff that really, really needs the specialist attention of court gets deferred)

There is a second “initiative’’ that motorists should know about. The CJ wants a guidebook on liability findings on a comprehensive list of motor vehicle accident scenarios. Right now, such claims form 30 per cent of cases in the subordinate courts. With this guidebook, motorists and insurers can decide whether it’s worth their while to bring an accident case to court. Sounds like a good idea. That guidebook should be put online for all to see.

By the way, it was interesting how ST and Today reported the reactions of lawyers. ST said they were “supportive’’ (I mean, what else can the lawyers say right?). There was a lawyer though saying that some people simply die die (my words) want their day in court to see justice done, however small the case may be. Today, on the other hand, asked lawyers whether they think their earnings will drop if fewer cases made it to court (!). One said firms might need to change their “business model’’.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Makes me wonder: Didn’t anyone ask the small guy for his views? Can find plenty of them in the courts, probably pursuing an accident claim.

PS. Please read “cemetery’’ if you’re wondering why I swore at the word slew.

Further reading

News Reports

What do you think? Can you live with the consequences of your vote? So if your town council runs out of money, you will...

News Reports

So many views have emerged over the slapping of Amos Yee that you can’t say a thing about it without someone emerging to… slap...

News Reports

I am no fan of The Real Singapore. I read it occasionally when articles pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and always end up...

News Reports

Why does it look like the Singapore Medical Council is a law unto itself? I refer to a commentary in ST today which says...

© 2022 Bertha Henson

Exit mobile version