Imbricate, ataraxic, nidus

Today, in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Justice Owen delivered his reasons for judgment in what has been described as Australia’s second-longest insolvency proceedings.  The trial took 404 days. Judgment has been reserved for a little over two years. On those grounds alone this should qualify as my “case of the week.”

The link above may take a while to open, as it is to a PDF version of the judgment, which extends to over 2,500 pages. The non-PDF link is even more unwieldy. There is a shorter summary, but even that doesn’t really answer many of what your questions might be unless you know something about the case already. The question of what relief should be given to the partially-successful plaintiffs remains up in the air for reasons which are too complicated to explain here. His Honour still seems to hope that the matter might settle.

One of the hall-marks of big cases, when fought tooth-and-nail, is that they can throw up a wealth of learning on a range of subjects as the parties throw the kitchen sink at each other by way of defences. Justice Owen has referred to this as the Les Misérables approach to litigation – referring to the barricades which were thrown up, ultimately ineffectually, by the “revolting students.”

Traditionally, such learning is propagated by means of a reported judgment in a bound volume. In this case, a lot will need to be edited out before the judgment would be of a manageable length for that purpose.

In the meantime, I’m not sure if his Honour is expecting a wide or general readership. “Imbricate” (which I should have known), “ataraxic” and “nidus” are just three of the words I have had to look up as a result of my so far quite cursory reading of his reasons. None of them is used as a technical legal term.

8 Responses to “Imbricate, ataraxic, nidus”

  1. Legal Eagle Says:

    Was wondering whether to skim the judgment, but after reading your post, I don’t think I’ll bother. I just don’t have the energy for it right now!!!

  2. marcellous Says:

    Well I guess you have other things on your mind just now, LE. Don’t let me put you off, but don’t rush into it. This could keep you going right through your confinement and maternity leave – just dip into it whenever you feel like a little light distraction – a bit like toilet reading really. It’s tabbed in the PDF version so you can pick which points you skim, and if you don’t know what the judge is talking about when you dip in, you can search intelligently to find other references. There are even some hyperlink cross references within the judgment.

  3. Victor Says:

    I had to look up all three words.

  4. marcellous Says:

    Richard Ackland takes roughly the same line in today’s SMH, though he confuses liquidators with receivers and breezily (“All’s fair in love and war”) dismisses one of the two main points of the judgment. I suppose for those who haven’t read the judgment yet, I should let on that Owen J says that he indulged in the vocabulary and other touches of judicial “humour” to avert misery, monotony and madness.

  5. O Says:

    Is it time someone (Attorney-General, Chief Justice, anyone) had the power to intervene, in the public interest, in the conduct of litigation? Clearly these types of cases have public costs – I’m sure society could have made some use of Justice Owen’s abilities over the last four years – for which the parties are not called to account.

    To put it in a vulgarly simplistic way, we (or WA taxpayers anyway) just provided gratis to Bell Corp & friends a $300,000 a year legal expert to sort out their lover’s tiff. Shouldn’t we have some capacity to curb their excesses?

  6. marcellous Says:

    Well, it’s a lot more than a lover’s tiff. Or if you like, it is the equivalent of many lovers’ tiffs put together.

    In this case, the WA Insurance Commission (basically a state government instrumentality – they are the universal compulsory third party insurer there still, I think) was a major funding creditor of the action, so in fact in this case the tax-payers or a close proxy for them were interested in the outcome of the proceedings. As it happens, a major part of SICWA’s claim failed because the bonds which it held and by virtue of which it is a creditor of the companies were found to be subordinated to the banks’ claims (it now only stands to gain or at least recoup its investment in costs as an indemnifying creditors under s 564 of the Corporations Act), but it was in essence overseen and approved by the government of the day.

  7. O Says:

    I see. I guess this was the worst possible case in terms of making my point!

  8. Nidus revisited « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] have written before about the judgment of Justice Owen in the case brought by the liquidator of The Bell Group Limited […]

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