One of the aims of Justice Journeys was to highlight to students the diversity of roles in law and justice, and it looks like that’s exactly what has happened for QUT student Kali. Read the eye-opening journey Kali took during her placement at the QEII Courts of Law.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the Justice Journeys job shadow program at the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane. The first half of the day was spent shadowing one of the court’s Bailiffs Hannah Lilley.
Bailiffs have a crucial role in ensuring the effective and efficient running of the courtroom. This involves making sure the courtroom requirements are catered for, opening and closing court, swearing in witnesses, interpreters and jurors and handing up documents from the bar table to the bench.
Until this experience, I was never really sure of the Bailiff’s role in court. Shadowing Hannah allowed me to see the crucial importance of this role in ensuring that trials are conducted in an efficient and timely manner, given the volume of cases that need to be heard. Hannah also made me aware of the Bailiff’s fundamental role in maintaining the impartiality of the jury. Bailiffs are solely responsible for the jury management. They maintain jury impartiality by ensuring that there is no contact between the jury and the general public, prosecution or defence. The importance of this cannot be understated, as ensuring there is no bias influencing the jury’s decision is fundamental to the fair administration of justice.
Another part of the Bailiff’s role is to operate the courtroom technology—such as the telephone and video—if it’s required. Access to the courtroom technology can be imperative to upholding the principles of equality and justice. In one of the cases I heard, one of the solicitors wasn’t able to be there in person but could still represent their client by using the technology and the client therefore wasn’t at a disadvantage.
In shadowing Hannah, I was able to watch a few sentencing proceedings, and this was my first real opportunity to watch the court process unfold. I found it interesting to see what evidence and circumstances of the accused the judge took into consideration in making his sentencing determinations. Some of the sentences were hard for me to comprehend, however I was well aware that my own bias was influencing my opinions in that regard. This experience therefore reinforced the importance of judge and jury objectivity in administrating justice. Being objective is important for legal professionals no matter what field we decide to enter—this is a skill that I will have to work on in order to develop a positive and ethical professional identity.
In further witnessing the proceedings, I was comforted by the fact the judge considered factors such as the accused’s future employment prospects and specific circumstances in determining the sentence. However, I still found it hard to remain completely objective when seeing the distraught families awaiting a sentencing decision. I think part of this is the fact that in law school, we are so swept away with applying facts of law to a case without really considering that these are real people and real issues. This allows us to be emotionally detached, however witnessing this first hand has made me question whether I could handle the emotional contagion associated with this area of practice.
The second half of the day I spent shadowing Stacey, the Childrens Court Listings Manager. Before this experience, I had been completely unaware of the amount of ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that goes on to ensure effective timetabling of criminal matters. The criminal listings team is responsible for the administration side of criminal matters in the Supreme, District and Childrens court. This involves scheduling when matters are heard, preparing and distributing court lists, scheduling interpreters and video/phone calls if required and ensuring courts are suitable for the matter being heard. I believe this role would be a good way to get your ‘foot in the door’ by making good industry connections and developing your legal knowledge of the different court processes. The thing that struck me the most about this team was that they were so supportive and friendly towards one another, and I hope to work in a similar environment in my future legal profession.
As I believe the best way to decide what legal career to follow is to immerse yourself in the realities of the chosen field. I am incredibly grateful to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General in allowing me to have this invaluable and eye-opening experience.