There is a complaints procedure at VCAT, where you can complaint about a member, staff, process or procedure. A form is available at the VCAT counter or to download. The form needs to be completed then witnessed by a Justice of the Peace, Court Registrar, Pharmacist, Dentist or Doctor and then sent handed to the counter at VCAT.
The president of VCAT replies to your complaint. This I found they do efficiently, eventhough dealing with the points raised within the complaint is another story.
Complaint about Member Kefford –
On 01 August 2014 I lodged a complaint about Member Kefford using the process above. In the complaint there were several points raised.
- Inappropriate behavior and lack of professionalism by the member
- member lacked patience, was insensitivity and was discourteous when listening to my replies
- The member was confrontational.
- The member did not afford me dignity.
I then went on to explain the reasons for these points in detail. The member was confrontational because at one point she threatened to “call security”, and did not explain the reasons for such a drastic measure. She continually interrupted me when I was speaking. When I had explained that the landlord had evicted me on the 12 June 2014 and asked her to look at the exhibits, she showed no particular interest. It was as if she came across such occurrences all the time.
There was clubby behaviour between the member and the legal counsel for the respondent. Actually, more than discussing points of law, the defense counsel just kept telling the member that he would like such and such order. The member complied with each of his requests. When I asked the Tribunal for written reasons before the conclusion of the Tribunal, the defense counsel asked the member if he could send me his version of written reasons.
Please feel free to download my complaint about Member Kefford from here. I did intend to have a link to the audio recording of the hearing, but feel there is little point due to it’s quality.
You can see the letter I received from the President of VCAT with regards to this complaint.
Complaints regarding process(es) or service(s) –
Complaint on 04 August 2014 –
Click here to download my complaint with regards to process(es) and service(es).
Response from the President of VCAT Justice Garde although made some attempt to address my complaint, came up short. There was collusion between the decision of the Tribunal of 08 July 2014 and the complaint itself. In that Justice Garde’s response was referring to ‘additional services’. The decision by the Tribunal on the 08 July 2014 found that the rental agreement between myself and the landlord was a license agreement and not a lease, on the grounds that the landlord had provided ‘additional services’. Justice Garde without addressing my complaint was more interested in scoring points based on the decision.
Decision of Tribunal is separate to any complaint made. Complaint about services and processes is just that. Complaints about decision would need to be appealed at the Supreme Court. The president of VCAT, who is also a Supreme Court Judge should know this pretty well.
I replied to his letter to say that my complaint was not all about one aspect of the VCAT Charter, “timeliness”, but is to do with both timeliness and consistency. It is somewhat simple to get one part of the charter spot-on, but to do well on multiple aspects in combination is what I was highlighting. This was not addressed in his letter, so that is how come I replied. He responded saying that his previous letter was “final” and that any further correspondence about the matter will be “read and filed” but not responded to. Of course, my next response would have been that the Tribunal (the President of VCAT) cannot come-up with an adverse finding without putting in jeopardy (doubt) the decision made on 08 July 2014. The letter by Justice Garde has similarities with Peter Mericka’s experiences in dealing with the Victorian Supreme Court. See the letter the executive associate to the Chief Justice sent to the Legal Services Commissioner about Peter Mericka here. See the letter I received from Justice Garde here.
In order to prepare the documents for appealing a VCAT decision of 08 July 2014, I lodged a file access request. This request was made on the 18 August 2014. File access request in the Residential Tenancies List are usually granted within 2-3 days. At least this is so, when the solicitors of the other party had lodged a file access request. I had not heard from VCAT about this request, so enquired from the counter as to what is happening about it. When I enquired, the staff at the counter was rude to me and said I was coming there “everyday”. (Read my complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission here, and their reply here.) I hadn’t visited VCAT everyday for a start and if the file access request was actioned I would not have had to visit VCAT two times that week.
Subsequently, I received a letter from Keryn Negri, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of VCAT to say that the request was handled in accordance with the “guidelines that states a staff member of VCAT will contact you [me] in due course to confirm arrangements for you to attend the Tribunal in order to inspect the files.” The letter is available for download here.
File access request for initial proceeding in 2013
A file access request for a proceeding in 2013, referred to by Member Kefford at the hearing on 08 July 2014, that led to the implied ‘vexatious litigant’ declaration on the order of 08 July 2014, has gone completely unanswered. Repeated phone calls to the Residential Tenancies List Customer Support Line has been unproductive, as the response has been the same, the “the file is in archives”.
In effect there are several barriers that an legally unrepresented litigant need to overcome:
1) Access issues as mentioned above.
2) Rudeness and/or bias.
3) Complaints responded to with box standard denials. No explanations provided for the denials. (un)Just denials saying “not persuaded by your comments” or “there is no substance to your claims”.
4) Relevance is made a “key” issue. No explanation how come its NOT relevant. Just “not relevant”.