Essay on Legal Reasoning and Common Law System

Published: 2021/11/16
Number of words: 1112

The court, decision-maker, and citation

Citation: GetSwift Limited Vs. Webb [2021] FCAFC 26 (5 March 2021)

Court: Federal Court of Australia

Decision Maker: JAGOT JJ and Mckerracher, Middleton

Material facts (summary only)

The case between Mr. Raffaele and GetSwift Limited entailed the alleged continuous disclosure contraventions by the company. This operational element by GetSwift Limited was presented in court previously, and the company was deemed guilty by the primary Judge. Therefore, the primary Judge had information about the company and therefore could preside over this case based on experience and information of the previous case. Therefore, the main aspect of this case is whether the primary judge should have disqualified himself from presiding over the case, which he did not. The idea behind this aspect is that the hypothetical observer of the case may consider the judgment affected by information from past cases regardless of the ability of the Judge to discard irrelevant information [3].

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The court decided that the case should be allocated to another judge due to some reasons. First and foremost, the court proceeding acknowledged that the Judge was able to preside the case without being influenced by the extensive knowledge that he had from the previous case. However, for the court to promote trust in the legal sector, the judgment favored changing the Judge. According to the court proceedings, the primary Judge was aware of the “unusual need for caution.” However, the law required disqualification of the Judge in such situations [4]. Therefore, the court’s decision disqualified the primary Judge, and the case was referred to the National Operations Registrar for reallocation [2].

Procedural history

The case was presented by Mr. Raffaele Web to court on 5th March 2021. This case involved GetSwift Limited as the first Appellant, Joel McDonald as the second appellant, and Raffaele Webb as the respondent. In the case proceedings, Mr. Raffaele Webb presents a case against GetSwift Limited. According to Mr. Raffaele, GetSwift Limited allegedly uses false and misleading statements in business. Additionally, Mr. Raffaele argued that the company also uses deceptive and misleading conduct in contraventions. However, in GetSwift Limited’s defense, Joel McDonald (GetSwift Limited’s Managing Director) argued that Mr. Raffaele contends the accusations not because they have been offended by the company. They are aware of the company’s continuous disclosure contraventions. From these elements, the case presents that GetSwift Limited has been operating against some corporate acts’ clauses such as s 674(2) of the 2001 Corporate Act [7].

[8] Previously, GetSwift Limited, Mr. McDonald, and GetSwift’s Executive Chairman, Mr. Bane Hunter, have also been presented in court by Austrian Securities and Investments and Commissions (ASIC) before and been charged with the same allegations. The primary Judge heard the company’s case in the past. The current case requires that the judgment adheres to the appellant’s current legislation elements and the respondent’s cases. However, the primary Judge was not fit for the case as he had extraneous information that would affect decision-making. Therefore, this case presents whether the allegations made by Mr. Raffaele against GetSwift were legitimate and whether the primary Judge was suitable to preside over the case or not.

Legal issues to be decided

From the above information about the case, this case entailed the need of the primary Judge to handle two cases that are related to each other separately. Whether the primary Judge could hear and handle the two cases separately, he had to be disqualified for this case to promote trust in the Australian legal system. Furthermore, the law allows a judge to be dismissed in case of extraneous information that may cause a biased decision. On the other hand, the influence of the Judge’s information on the case was not beneficial for both the appellant and respondent in the court. The primary Judge accepted that he was aware of the situation, which showed that he would act discreetly. Therefore, the main legal issues to be decided included [12]:

  1. In the eyes of a reasonable observer, the primary Judge may not move their mind from the position of the previous case about McDonald and GetSwift, even if the current material suggested otherwise.
  2. The Primary Judge argued that the materials used in the ASIC proceeding did not constitute strong extraneous information that could influence the current proceeding.

Therefore, Mr. McDonald and GetSwift Limited presented that due to the information obtained by the primary Judge from the ASIC proceedings, the Judge was not suitable for handling the current case and had to disqualify himself. However, the primary Judge did not consider this and therefore disputed this allegation. From the situations presented by the primary Judge, he was suitable to handle the case. The primary Judge presented his bold awareness of the cases’ issues and similarities, which showed that he was in a suitable position to handle the case [8].

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Despite acknowledging that the primary Judge was in a position to handle the current case, the court ruled in favor of Mr. McDonald and GetSwift due to some aspects. Some of the major elements considered include:

  1. [3] The appeal presents the question of the hypothetical observer who is aware of the previous cases by the primary Judge.
  2. While a judge can handle cases separately regardless of their similarities [4], the hypothetical observer may think that some decisions by the Judge about the current case were decided based on the previous case’s materials.
  3. This issue would cause issues between the legal system and the public where the public members would lose hope in the legal system.
  4. Furthermore, the law allows for disqualification in such cases. Therefore, the appeal disqualified the primary Judge from handling the case because materials may hinder the decision-making process from past hearings.

Rationes decidendi

[35] The hypothetical observer is always aware of the court proceedings and considers that a judge may be biased due to information acquisition from past cases.

However, a judge is trained and equipped with the required skills and abilities to handle legislative materials meaning that the primary Judge could handle the current case by discarding irrelevant information from past cases.

The primary Judge had made the assertions that the cases were related to each other closely. Therefore, the court considered a possibility of bias judgment due to past cases.

Orders (short)

Appeal Allowed: the case denoted back to the National Operations Registrar for reallocation to a separate judge in the Commercial and Corporations National Practice Area.

The orders to costs applied only to the parties to the appeal, including Mr. Webb and ASIC. The costs were fixed at $40,000 plus GST.

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