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Amicus Curiae Journal Article: Putting a Social and Cultural Framework on the Evidence Act

By David Goddard J and Mai Chen

This article follows that presentations to a seminar on the Supreme Court decision in Deng v Zheng (2022): guidance on bringing relevant social and cultural information to the court’s attention. The case concerned whether, despite a lack of formal documentation, the parties had entered into a legal partnership, of which they would be jointly responsible for the debts of the partnership. Two issues arose relating to the culture of the parties: namely, whether the meaning to be ascribed to 公司 (gingsi) went beyond ‘company’ and could extend to ‘firm’ or ‘enterprise’ and the significance of 关系 (guanxi). Both parties are Chinese and their business relationship appeared to have been conducted in Mandarin. Justice Goddard was the presiding judge in Zheng v Deng (2020), the Court of Appeal judgment appealed to the Supreme Court. Mai Chen appeared with two other lawyers on behalf of the intervenor, the New Zealand Law Society.

Read the article here.


What’s it like going to the independent bar?

By Mai Chen

I have never worked so hard in my life, but I love it. All of my time is spent solving legal problems and preparing for court which is really a giant viva voce exam – so it’s hard. I have just come out of the Auckland High Court and am now preparing to appear in the Wellington High Court in early December. But I am learning at a much faster pace than I was at Chen Palmer and I am getting better as a lawyer.

 

I have only ever really wanted to be the best lawyer I could be – and the “rock I have thrown at the tiger” (see my TED Talk) by leaving Chen Palmer and going to the bar is making me run – or get eaten. It is the concept of “anti-fragile” introduced to me by a fabulous client who is a great strategic problem solver and also an ex-elite athlete. We were both raised by Dads that pushed us to excel on the sports field. It carries over into your whole life!

 

I throw a rock at the tiger every 10 years so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel or rest on my laurels.  Previously, I left academia and set up Chen Palmer with Sir Geoffrey Palmer as NZ’s first Public Law specialist firm in Wellington. That was hard. I was inaugural Chair of Global Women, I sat on the NZ Securities Commission and the Bank of NZ Board. These were all hard challenges but led to so much learning. Ten years ago, I moved to Auckland and started Chen Palmer here and set up the Superdiversity Institute and NZ Asian Leaders. I started working on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts.

 

Leaving Chen Palmer was really hard. I loved my time there, but after almost 29 years there, I had to find my next challenge. When we were named as a top Boutique Law Firm by NZ Lawyer, I knew there was never going to be a better time. So with Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s blessing, and with a lot of encouragement from my wonderful husband Dr John Sinclair and my son Jack Chen-Sinclair, I am now focused on Public Law Toolbox Chambers (which is really the next iteration of Chen Palmer) and chairing NZ Asian Lawyers, which I founded – let’s go!

It has been hard work making the transition, but I love it. All of my time is spent solving legal problems and preparing for court which is really a giant viva voce exam – so it’s hard. I have just come out of the Auckland High Court and am now preparing to appear in the Wellington High Court in early December. And I have a lot of other files running. But I am learning at a much faster pace than I was at Chen Palmer and I am getting better as a lawyer.

 

I have only ever really wanted to be the best lawyer I could be – and the “rock I have thrown at the tiger” (see my TED Talk) by leaving Chen Palmer and going to the bar is making me run – or get eaten. It is the concept of “anti-fragile” introduced to me by a fabulous client who is a great strategic problem solver and also an ex-elite athlete. We were both raised by Dads that pushed us to excel on the sports field. It carries over into your whole life!

 

I throw a rock at the tiger every 10 years so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel or rest on my laurels.  Previously, I left academia and set up Chen Palmer with Sir Geoffrey Palmer as NZ’s first Public Law specialist firm in Wellington. That was hard. I was inaugural Chair of Global Women, I sat on the NZ Securities Commission and the Bank of NZ Board. These were all hard challenges but led to so much learning. Ten years ago, I moved to Auckland and started Chen Palmer here and set up the Superdiversity Institute and NZ Asian Leaders. I started working on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts.

 

Leaving Chen Palmer was really hard. I loved my time there, but after almost 29 years there, I had to find my next challenge. When we were named as a top Boutique Law Firm by NZ Lawyer, I knew there was never going to be a better time. So with Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s blessing, and with encouragement from my wonderful husband Dr John Sinclair and my son Jack Chen-Sinclair, I am now focused on Public Law Toolbox Chambers (which is really the next iteration of Chen Palmer) and chairing NZ Asian Lawyers, both of which I founded.


Justice Glazebrook Seminar on 8 November 2022

NZ Asian Lawyers in association with Russell McVeagh are proud to host an event which covers two significant recent Supreme Court cases on tikanga and culture, Ellis v R [2022] NZSC 114 and Deng v Zheng [2022] NZSC 76.

We are honoured and delighted to have the Honourable Justice Susan Glazebrook, who sat on the bench for both cases, address us on the topic. 

All are invited given the significance of this topic for our profession and competent advocacy for clients. The seminar is 1 CPD hour. 

The Zoom will begin at 5:15pm and complete at 6:15pm. Following this, you are invited to remain and join us as we host the NZ Asian Lawyers Christmas Function. 

Date: 8th November 2022

Time: 5:00pm event starts.
          5:15pm seminar and zoom starts.
          6:16pm NZ Asian Lawyers Christmas Function starts.

Venue: Russell McVeagh (Auckland) – level 30, Vero Centre, 48 Shortland Street. 

As there will be a livestream of the seminar please advise if you are attending in person or online.

RSVP: Here.


New Zealand Asian Lawyers Litigation Committee Event

20 October 2022

Following the welcoming of Yvonne Mortimer-Wang (Barrister at Shortland Chambers) and Kavita Deobhakta (Litigation Partner at Morgan Coakle) to the New Zealand Asian Lawyers Litigation Committee, the Committee invited Asian litigators to an informal gathering at Shortland Chambers on the 20th October 2022. This event afforded members the opportunity to meet with Augustine Choi (Co-Chair), Yvonne and Kavita to get to know them in a relaxed social setting. 

Due to the demand for this event, the Committee has decided to run Best lawyering tips – what I would have told my younger lawyer self on how to become a great lawyer, an event in 2023. The exact date is yet to be announced. 


New Zealand Young Asian Lawyers Event

19 October 2022

Mai Chen (Chair of NZ Asian Lawyers), Alison Dymond (Chair of the Young Asian Lawyers Committee) and New Zealand Young Asian Lawyers presented the “Asian Experiences in the Legal Profession” event at Meredith Connell in Auckland. 

Attendees were invited to relax and mingle, as Danielle Cooper (Solicitor at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts) chaired the panel, consisting of Edwina Ma (Tax Director of KPMG), Michael Ip (Criminal Defence Lawyer at the Public Defence Service) and Kishan Gunatanga (Senior Solicitor at Chapman Tripp). 

We would like to thank Max Hardy (Meredith Connell) for hosting this event. 


Panel on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Litigants in Australian Courts

1 October 2022

Justice Emilios Kyrou (Supreme Court of Victoria) and Honourable Justice Helen Wood (Supreme Court of Tasmania) spoke on a panel, with Mai Chen, about Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Litigants in Australian Courts. 

The Summit, held by the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, had a theme of ‘Many Cultures, One Voice’ and consisted of a stellar line up of professionals, thinkers and performers who openly shared and discussed the vision and roadmap for legal professionals and those in the wider community to work together to build and maintain a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The video of this zoom summit is yet to be released. 


CALD Issues Paper Launch Event

14 September 2022

The linked report was launched on Monday night (12th September 2022) at The University of Melbourne Law School in conjunction with the Asian Australian Lawyers Association. Along with the launch of the CALD White Paper, the attendees heard speeches from Honourable Paul Coghlan AO QC (former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria) and her Honour Judge My Anh Tran of the County Court of Victoria. Attendees also heard from a speech from the President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, Molina Asthana, and Andrew Godwin, co-author of the White Paper, who moderated the event. 

The purpose of this White Paper is:

  1. to outline for readers in Australia the key findings and recommendations of the CALD Report of the Superdiversity Institute in New Zealand entitled ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts: A Chinese Case Study’ (the ‘CALD Report’)1, published November 2019;
  2. to outline the changes to the legal landscape elicited by the CALD Report;
  3. to reflect on the insights that the recommendations of the CALD Report offers to Australia;
  4. to propose an action plan for related initiatives to meet the challenges arising out of increasing superdiversity in Australian courts; and
  5. to contribute to public discourse

To read the report please click here.


Interview on TV3 Newshub Nation on the Constitutional Implications of the Death of the Queen for New Zealand. 

14 September 2022

On Saturday 10th September, Mai Chen appeared on TV3’s Newshub Nation to discuss the constitutional implications of the death of Queen Elizabeth for New Zealand. 

Mai discussed how we presently have an unwritten constitution that is held together by conventions, practices and usages. In order for constitutional reform to take place many question must first be answered as to what the structure would look like. 

To change public power in New Zealand the impacts on every part of the system must be considered. 

To watch the interview please see click HERE


Media Release: CALD Issues Paper Launch Event

05 September 2022
 
The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is proud to announce the Australian launch of the Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD) Issues Paper drafted by Mai Chen and Dr. Andrew Godwin with the support of The University of Melbourne, Super Diversity Institute, and AALA, on 12 September 2022.

CALD parties have long faced barriers that disrupt their access to justice. The CALD Issues Paper seeks to identify these barriers and suggest ways of addressing them. The purpose of this Issues Paper is:

  1. To outline for readers in Australia the key findings and recommendations of the CALD Report of the Superdiversity Institute in New Zealand entitled ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts: A Chinese Case Study’, published November 2019;
  2. To outline the changes to the legal landscape elicited by the CALD Report;
  3. To reflect on the insights that the recommendations of the CALD Report offers to Australia;
  4. To propose an action plan for related initiatives to meet the challenges arising out of increasing superdiversity in Australian courts; and
  5. To contribute to public discourse.

Following its launch in November 2019, the CALD Report was acknowledged as ground-breaking and has materially assisted the consideration of the unique challenges for CALD parties in getting equal access to justice in New Zealand courts among the judiciary, the legal profession, and the broader community. The report was subsequently cited in the New Zealand Court of Appeal case Zheng v Deng [2020] NZCA 614 and in the recent Supreme Court case of Zheng v Deng [2022] NZSC 76. Given the report’s significant influence in New Zealand’s legal landscape and the long-term impacts of the discourse it has sparked, with a Global Symposium in Cultural Experts in the courts in the Sorbonne in 2023, we believe that these developments will provide valuable insight for Australia with its substantially similar legal system and superdiverse population.

The launch will take place at The University of Melbourne Law School at 5.30 pm (registration) for a 6 pm start (AEST) and will be joined by the Honourable Paul Coghlan AO QC (former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria) and her Honour Judge My Anh Tran of the County Court of Victoria. The launch will be a hybrid event allowing both in-person and online attendance.

Registration is essential and can be done through the following link –
http://membersuite.aala.org.au/event-4949339

We hope to see as many attendees as possible at the event so that the true impact of the CALD Issues Paper can be realised, thereby promoting greater access to justice for CALD parties in the courts and justice system.

President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association Molina Asthana says that “This ground-breaking research from New Zealand, as contextualised for Australia, will for the first time explore issues of access to justice for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in the court system in Australia and recommend actions and initiatives that may assist in overcoming these challenges so that ‘Justice is not only done but seen to have been done’. We want to hear from all interested stakeholders so that the Comprehensive report when published, takes into account views of those who are directly involved in implementation.”

Authors Mai and Andrew state they “hope that the Issues Paper will make a useful contribution to the discourse in Australia and elsewhere concerning the challenges facing CALD parties in the courts and how those challenges might be overcome to ensure everyone gets equal access to justice. We look forward to engaging further with stakeholders on these important Rule of Law issues.” 

For all media inquiries, please contact Molina Asthana on
president@aala.vic.gov.au or 0400785299
Mai.Chen@maichen.nz or +6421565709


Deng v Zheng Seminar

2 August 2022

The Honourable Justice Goddard, Mai Chen, Jacque Lethbridge and Paul Radich QC presented a seminar on the Supreme Court decision in Deng v Zheng: Guidance on bringing relevant social cultural information to the Court’s attention. 

This event was run in conjunction with the New Zealand Law Society, the New Zealand Bar Association and held at Buddle Findlay. 

Please keep an eye out for the forthcoming issue 2.4.1 of Amicue Curiae, which will feature the article by Mai Chen and Court of Appeal judge, Hon. Justice David Goddard titled “Putting a Social and Cultural Framework on the Evidence Act: Recent New Zealand Supreme Court Guidance.”

To view the video of the Deng v Zheng seminar, click here