Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Chief Justice Inspired By Homer (Simpson, that is)

It's great to learn that Australia's new chief justice finds inspiration and quotables in The Simpsons and Sylvester Stallone movies. But why does the Stallone movie have to be the woeful Judge Dredd?

Robert French is unapologetically bringing a touch of Hollywood to the High Court of Australia. Not the gargantuan budgets - he is uncomfortable with the rising cost of justice - but the popular culture of Harry Potter, The Simpsons and even the sci-fi future justice of Judge Dredd.

In order to draw people to important issues, French, sworn in this week as Australia's 12th chief justice, uses humour in speeches and judgments, and references that might not be expected in serious legal debate.

A science-fiction devotee, the former Federal Court judge excitedly recalls a speech he gave earlier this year where he used clips from the Sylvester Stallone film Judge Dredd, set in 2139 when people live in violent mega-cities and special police called "street judges" act as judge, jury and executioner.

"I was quoting Montesquieu about separation of powers and how when you combine the functions of judge and executive, you get a tyrant. And I suggested here's a Hollywood picture of what this looks like and it's Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd saying 'I am the law...'"

"In fact what that film was about was some future in which you have combined executive and judicial functions. You've got policemen riding around arresting people, trying them, punishing them and then saying 'Court adjourned' and roaring off on their levitating Harley Davidson. It makes the point."

So no levitating Harleys for Australian police then.