An Associate acts as a personal and confidential aide to a Judge – both in and out of Court – and the role requires a close working relationship between the two. QUT student Georgia spent three days with a number of District Court Associates to learn more about what this important role entails.
I was fortunate enough to spend three days shadowing a variety of Judge’s Associates in Brisbane’s District Court, at the QEII Courts of Law. A Judge’s Associate has always been a position of great interest to me as a possibility in the future, so this opportunity was very exciting.
My first day at the District Court – a Monday – got off to an exciting start, with the swearing in of a new judge. I was taken upstairs to the District Court Judge’s chambers floor where I met His Honour Chief Judge Kerry O’Brien, Chief Judge of the District Court, and his Associate Sam, who I would spend the day with.
I then attended the 9:30am mentions in court. I was very excited to be given the privilege of sitting with Sam at the front of the court to be able to observe his work whilst Chief Judge O’Brien was conducting the mentions. I was impressed with how smoothly and quickly the process ran. A highlight of the morning was the sentencing of an offender by Chief Judge O’Brien and seeing Sam arraign the defendant. After shadowing Sam completing his admin work from the morning mentions, we went to watch evidence being given for a criminal trial which was confronting but interesting. It also highlighted to me the huge variety of subject matter both Judges and their Associates work with on a daily basis.
On Tuesday, my day started with shadowing Judge Moynihan’s Associate Alex, who was preparing for a jury empanelment. It was a great opportunity to see behind the scenes preparation. I was surprised at the wooden barrel used to select jurors, as I thought newer technology might have been used, but it’s also nice to see some traditions remain. It was an exciting process to observe whether either party would challenge the jurors from the time their names were called to when they were sworn in. In the afternoon, I was able to sit in on a civil application in front of Judge Andrews. Whilst the subject matter was not something I have studied, I was pleasantly surprised at how amusing and intriguing the process was. Both counsel were very effective advocates and I appreciated how conversational the exchanges were between both parties and Judge Andrews. This was something that has been emphasised during university study but it was great to see it in action.
My final day at the District Court started by shadowing Judge Clare’s Associate Bill, who was in the middle of a criminal trial. Evidence was given by different police officers and it was very interesting to experience the different questioning styles of both sides. I then headed upstairs to shadow Judge Bowskill’s Associate Eilish for a jury verdict for a criminal trial. This was one of the highlights of my time at the Court. After a guilty verdict was returned I got to see both the Crown and counsel for the defendant submit on the appropriate sentence length and Judge Bowskill impose a sentence.
My afternoon wrapped up with a final mention in front of Chief Judge O’Brien, who then very generously had a chat with me about my studies. Among the many words of wisdom that will stick me for a long time to come, His Honour advised me to never be late for a judge as a lawyer – it is something I will be very conscious of in the future!
This was a truly invaluable experience and I am very grateful to both DJAG and the District Court Judges and their Associates for allowing me this opportunity. A special thank you to Sam for organising my itinerary for the three days and being so welcoming.