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JUDGE (n.) A law student who marks his own papers - H.L. Mencken

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
- Abraham Lincoln

The Judge files contain background factual data on judges, as well as analysis which is more subjective in nature.  Where analysis and opinion are provided, they are the considered and sole opinion of the editor.  Information and news tips on judges can be sent to Spartan News Limited through various means listed on the 'Contact Us' page.  Information may be submitted anonymously but it would be very helpful if reference or source background can be supplied along with information.

KIWIS FIRST

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NEW ZEALAND SUPREME COURT SPINS ANOTHER FACT

2 August 2012
The absence of an independent bar or arm's length appellate courts in New Zealand allow the Supreme Court to increasingly make it up as it goes.  SEE THE LATEST CASE WHICH HAS SURFACED

 

GLAZEBROOK APPOINTED TO THE SUPREME COURT

31 July 2012
The New Zealand Supreme Court has added a further element of unpredictability with the appointment of Susan Glazebrook by Attorney General Chris Finlayson.  Glazebrook was one of the more emotional and erratic Court of Appeal judges but was also seen generally to be one of the more respectful of human rights.

High Court Justice Christine French was appointed to the Court of Appeal to fill the slot.

 

JUDGE LANCE CRIMINAL TRIAL

15 March 2010   
Former Deputy Judge of the Independent Police Complaints Authority Michael Lance QC will face trial in the North Shore District Court on 24 March 2010 for willful vandalism.  As first reported on kiwisfirst a year ago, Lance was witnessed "keying" the car of businessman Richard Cummins in front of the Judge's Browns Bay apartment by café patrons across the street.  Despite the trial being set for months, the half dozen witnesses were only subpoenaed this weekend. 

Further investigation of Judge Lance after his arrest uncovered a disturbing history of criminal conduct.  This included similar incidents of vandalism where the Judge was questioned but never charged, as well as the Judge throwing a trial in Rotorua of a lawyer charged with fraud and blackmail years earlier.  That lawyer, caught on tape trying to blackmail the detective prosecuting his drug-dealing client, turned out to be the business partner of the Judge's son Simon.  Without disclosing the relationship, Lance had himself appointed trial judge and travelled down from Auckland to preside.  In a brazen display of power, Lance J found the lawyer not guilty and then publicly castigated the police for prosecuting the lawyer.  The lawyer cannot be named because Judge Lance additionally gave him name suppression.

Judge Lance's perversion of the course of justice in the criminal trial of his son's law partner occurred when Supreme Court Judge John McGrath was Solicitor General and Police Complaints Authority Judge Lowell Goddard was Deputy Solicitor General.  Police hierarchy reported and detailed the corruption to the Solicitor General and deputy, but McGrath and Goddard concealed the evidence of Lance's criminal offending from the bench and dismissively stated at the time that prosecution of Judge Lance was "not in the public interest".   At least one high ranking Police inspector quit out of disillusionment.  The important news story was never reported by the NZ media. 

Subsequent Official Information Act requests for this evidence held by the Crown Law office have been stonewalled by claims the evidence is protected by legal privilege.  Appallingly, both Justice McGrath and Justice Goddard gave ringing endorsements to Judge Lance's subsequent promotion to Judge of the Independent Police Complaints Authority.  Judge Lance wasted no time claiming victory over the Police officials who had complained about his criminal conduct to no avail years earlier.

Years after McGrath and Goddard's cover-up of Judge Lance's criminal misconduct on the bench, Judge Lance successfully sued a radio talkbalk host Mark Bennett for defamation after the host called the Judge "idiotic". 

Judge Michael Lance is currently retired.  He is aggressively defending the charge but does not want a jury trial.  The trial should prove interesting even if the New Zealand media are afraid to report it.  BACK TO FRONT PAGE

 

SOLICITOR GENERAL CLAIMS HE IS VICTIM OF CONSPIRACY

15 September 2009
New Zealand Solicitor General David Collins is currently defending at least three unrelated complaints to the New Zealand Law Society for alleged legal misconduct.  One is by kiwisfirst editor Vince Siemer, in relation to representations by Mr Collins to the Auckland High Court in January 2008.  In brief, that complaint alleges Collins knowingly made false claims to initiate a contempt action that the www.kiwisfirst.com website was in breach of an interim injunction, despite his office conceding that the content was "fully compliant" with the injunction terms.  The complaint also alleges that he deliberately misled Parliament by misrepresenting to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee in August 2007 that the matter was before the Courts - and thereby off limits from a Parliamentary inquiry.

Mr Collins has responded by letter dated 3 September 2009 to Secretary of National Standards Committee Mary Ollivier that he considers he is the victim of a conspiracy by Mr Siemer and the other complainants.  Presumably, on this basis, he refused to address the substance of the complaint and supporting evidence in the form of a 6 September 2007 email indicating his office agreed months before that the website was not in breach the injunction.  Ironically Mr Collins used his response to threaten the Law Society with prosecution for contempt of Parliament if he considered the Law Society was "to collaterally challenge" the Select Committee's decision founded on what Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith had subsequently determined "may not have been correct".  Dr Smith's conclusion was reached before he became aware of the documentary evidence that David Collins was personally involved in the deception of the Committee. 

Collins elected to take a global position in his reply.  He appended a copy of the resultant High Court Judgment ordering Siemer to six months prison for failing to "unconditionally close down" this website as defence that his actions in seeking Mr Siemer's imprison were appropriate. back to front page

 

COURT ORDER SILENCES CORONER AND CONCEALS FARDELL SUICIDE FROM PUBLIC      

27 August 2007
Late in July 2007 it was revealed that Auckland High Court Justice Paul Heath ruled last December - more than a year after Robert Fardell QC (right) fell to his death from the 15 metre high Takapuna Head cliffs into the rocky surf at high tide - that the Auckland Coroner's findings and the evidence into the bizarre circumstances of Fardell's death would be largely suppressed.  This Court ruling by Heath J followed prominent barrister Harry Waalken QC obtaining a restraining order in July 2006 preventing the Coroner from releasing his written report while the family sought a judicial review designed to censure and obscure the Coroner's findings.  Unfortunately for Waalken, the cat had already been let out of the bag at a special inquest conducted at the Auckland Coroner's Court in June 2006.  This was when Auckland Coroner Dr. Murray Jamieson issued an oral report stating Mr. Fardell died from drowning, with the post-mortem examination revealing drowning was precipitated by massive injuries consistent with a fall immediately prior. 
 
With foul play and suicide the likely scenarios facing police officers responding to report of a lifeless body on the rocks, foul play must reasonably be ruled out simply on the response of police that day finding a middle-age man unexpectedly dead.  What is known is that the police and ambulance response to the call of a body found 6:30 pm 11 December 2005 as the tide receded was unusually brief for an untimely and, presumably, uncertain cause of death.  Although Mr. Fardell was 52 years old and in good health at the time he died, neither cordoning of the scene nor forensic analysis in-situ was apparently conducted.  The ambulance crew left shortly after inspecting the top of the cliff above where the body was found. Moreover, as Fardell was an extremely heavy-set man who additionally had to breach a fence to reach the edge of the cliff, it is highly unlikely that his fall could have been an accident or murder in this area active with people enjoying the early summer weekend.

Nonetheless, Barrister Waalken vehemently pressed the Coroner that suicide was not a finding the Coroner could legally make - or even mention.  While the Coroner seemed ultimately prepared to delicately acquiesce to Waalken's demands, Waalken's subsequent legal motions that the Coroner permanently seal the evidence and his finding were rejected outright by the Coroner as incompatible with the fundamental precept of transparent proceedings and justice.  It is this ruling by the Coroner that has now been overturned by Auckland High Court Justice Heath.

There has been some speculation, unproven, that Mr. Fardell had a life insurance policy, the death benefit from which may have been lost if the Coroner's findings indicated suicide.  However, it is more likely for reasons that will become apparent deeper in this story that, given the tremendous media exposure to the death, concerns were heightened within the judiciary that allowing the circumstances of the death to be made public would only increase the public's curiosity as to what drove Fardell to such self-destruction.  It was anticipated that attention into the deceased's sordid personal and professional life would then raise legitimate and troubling questions as to how such a person could reach the pinnacle of the legal profession and be next in line for a judicial appointment while those in authority had turned a blind eye to numerous disturbing complaints concerning his professional conduct for several years leading up to his death. 

In the days immediately following his death, the New Zealand Herald ran front page stories claiming that Mr. Fardell died of a heart attack while swimming - irresponsible news reporting easily dispelled by facts that were immediately available to any reporter interested in accuracy.  Other than the location of the body on rocks hundreds of meters from the nearest beach, Mr. Fardell was not dressed for a swim as he walked away from his house for the last time.  The inquest officer assigned to the case said the body was found with shorts and no shoes but that his experience was "articles of clothing quickly get separated from the body in the water".   And as any viewer of CSI can tell you, there are definitive forensic tests to quickly determine whether someone has suffered a fatal heart attack. 

The inquest officer, Paul Herman of the Takapuna Police, immediately realized that he was in over his head on this investigation.  The last person to talk to the deceased was Chris Morris, son of (now retired) High Court judge David Morris.  Chris Morris admitted to Herman that he had come to Fardell's home this Sunday afternoon to discuss pending legal matters with the deceased but declined to grant a formal interview or provide further detail.  Same with the widow.  Also, as the press was widely reporting that ten High Court judges had attended the funeral, the estate hired Barrister Harry Waalken QC, widely regarded as a legal Houdini on medical cases, to advance the family's position on the death - and stymie the investigation.   Faced with such powerful stonewalling Mr. Herman did not need to be a genius to identify that careers are made or lost on how someone might handle himself in an investigation where a litany of prominent lawyers and judges were not only expressing a keen interest in his approach to the investigation but were simultaneously speaking out effusively in the press about what a great man of integrity Mr. Fardell was.

Mr. Fardell undoubtedly had many fine qualities, but integrity was not one of them.  It didn't help that Mr. Herman quite quickly uncovered this darker side to the man.  Herman casually revealed to a private investigator early in his investigation that an Asian gang Fardell had a falling out with were phoning him in an attempt to gain information.  Within a month Herman was also informed that Fardell was being sued in the Auckland High Court for deceptive practices by former clients Paragon Oil Systems Limited and Vince and Jane Siemer, and that an application detailing allegations that Fardell three times perjured himself had been filed and served less than two weeks before his death.  Adding insult to a potentially career-killing injury for Fardell was the fact that Hugh Williams, a judge whom Fardell considered dim-witted and vain and, hence, was an irresistible butt of his jokes, was, as judge in the case, going out of his way to unduly protect Fardell.  Fardell was a proud man whose career and legitimate standing among his peers meant everything to him.  This graft from an unlikely ally whom he had been all too quick to dismiss as unprofessional was a tremendous blow to his ego as much as an inescapable symbol of poetic justice. 
 
Yet another former client, New Zealand inventor Hugh Price, was also embroiled in a legal battle against Fardell before he died.  Mr. Price had years earlier obtained a ruling from the Lay Observer that overruled the Law Society's dismissal of a formal complaint he had lodged against Mr. Fardell for deceptive practices and seeming incompetence.  Despite this ruling of the Lay Observer, the Law Society refused to act on the complaint.  Now, in December 2005, Mr. Price was again challenging Fardell in a current case for acting in a conflict of interest capacity.
 
Topping off all this was Fardell's close personal and business relationship with powerful Auckland insolvency practitioner Michael Stiassny, a relationship he would come to ruefully regret in the weeks before his death   This was due in large part to (what Fardell was obviously convinced to be) an intentional release of information by his former friend that helped expose Fardell's legal scams.  This information put Fardell's career at risk in addition to severely undermining his credibility.  Whether this was the straw in the mountain of straw that broke the camel's back is difficult to say.  However, given the significant betrayal by someone he had put so much trust in, it is not difficult to surmise this weighed heavily on Fardell as he solemnly walked to the precipice this otherwise sunny Sunday.   Ironically, as Stiassny was trustee of the Fardell family trust (Delfar Holdings Limited) at the time of his death Fardell could not escape his clutches even in death. 
 
In this pressure cooker where the powerful legal community's obituary contrasted so sharply with the unfolding facts of the man's real life, Officer Herman did the only thing he considered safe under the circumstances - he went to ground.  As the Coroner's representative, Officer Herman was responsible for publicizing the public inquest.  Despite the tremendous number of contacts he had received from media and financially interested parties, Officer Herman informed only the widow and Harry Waalken QC of the public inquest that he had hastily convened barely 2 months after the death.
 
Officer Herman would arrogantly respond later to those who felt slighted by his subterfuge regarding the public inquest that he was under no obligation to inform interested parties of the date or setting.  This was simply untrue.  The Coroner's Act 1988 specifically required him to notify in advance parties who may have an interest in the inquest.  In the winter of 2006 Judge Borrin issued a ruling on behalf of the Police Complaints Authority of New Zealand stating Herman was derelict in his obligations under the Act.  The Coroner had earlier been compelled to conduct a special inquest due to Herman's railroading of the public one.
 
The year 2006 saw significant changes in law for the Coroner's Office.  The 1988 Act was repealed in favour of the Coroner's Act 2006, which was passed into law in August 2006, and the establishment of the Coronial Services of New Zealand was formed on 1 July 2007.  Perhaps this chaos explains why the Coroner - having a year earlier been ready to issue his written inquest findings before a cease and desist order of the Court prevented him from doing so - released his report on 20 July 2007, seven months after Judge Heath finally gave him the approval to do so - sans the evidence and guts of the report.  Perhaps the Coroner's delay was a demonstration of conscious indignation at the Court imposed coverup. 
 
So it was that what started as a whitewash intended to be quickly disposed of in record time was eventually whitewashed by judicial order more than a year and a half after the fact.  And when one reads the Coroner's brief final report, it is obvious that Mr. Waalken earned his substantial fees on this one.  In legal speak, lawyers deceive by omission.  This is obvious in this case when one reads the Coroner's two page report.  This reporter's favorite line from that report is "No evidence was located to suggest that Mr. Fardell harboured any intention to commit suicide.  Indeed, his work on forthcoming cases suggested to the contrary".  It is as perverse as it is ironic that the Coroner could not write massive injuries from a fall directly contributed to the drowning but was encouraged to get into the highly speculative (let alone non-medical) realm of saying busy people do not have time to commit suicide.  Read Coroner's censured report.  
 
In obvious double-talk the new Coronial Services website states on its' front page, "The (new) Act was designed to enhance public confidence in the integrity and independence of the coronial system."  All too sadly, the net result has proven the opposite true.  BACK TO FRONT PAGE
 
 
 

 

 

 

JUDGE HUBBLE HONOURS HUBBARD AS 'OCCUPIER' OF CITY BUILDINGS

11 September 2007
In a ruling handed down by Auckland District Court Justice GV Hubble today, the Judge recognized the Mayor as 'occupier' of 'the whole of the Council Chambers and its buildings' for the intent and purpose of the Trespass Act 1980.  This means the Mayor has the absolute right in law, according to Judge Hubble, to order people removed from city buildings whose presence the Mayor decides to be objectional or disruptive - or if he has good reason to believe they might become so - so long as he does not act 'capriciously' in doing so. 

Judge Hubble's ruling found community activist Penny Bright guilty of crimimal trespass and discharged her without sentence, saying that she was well meaning and had suffered enough.  The case stems from a 23 November 2006 Council Meeting called under urgency to consider a new waterfront stadium in Auckland.   Hubbard had denied Ms. Bright speaking rights at the meeting.   Ms. Bright demonstrated her displeasure with the Mayor's refusal by displaying a 1 by 1.5 metre banner in the public gallery that read "Mayor Hubbard's DICKtatorship is a CEREAL matter - Don't Buy it".   The Mayor demanded she put the banner away but Ms. Bright refused; this refusal prompting the Mayor to temporarily adjourn the meeting while he summoned Police.  By the time Police came the banner was gone but, when Ms. Bright refused to leave the meeting, the Mayor had her arrested for trespassing.  The stadium proposal pushed by Hubbard eventually failed.  The case of criminal trespass against Ms. Bright was pursued by the Crown at the Mayor's urging. 

The mild-mannered Hubble appeared reticient in issuing his judgment.  His decision ran contrary to three previous District Court rulings that had favoured Ms. Bright in similar circumstances.  Still Hubble remarkably praised Ms. Bright and, in response to Ms. Bright submissions ahead of the sentencing, said he agreed with all the points she made.  The difference this time, according to the Judge, was the Mayor found the banner justifiably objectionable.   The Judge agreed.

With his judgment today Hubble also strayed further than previous District Court judges in ruling the Mayor was the rightful 'occupier' of the City building and, as such, was within his right to demand people being disruptive or guilty of objectionable conduct be cited for criminal trespass if they failed to leave when ordered to do so.  Paradoxically the Judge recognized the public's right to access public buildings and attend public meetings.  He therefore qualified his judgment by stating the Mayor, as occupier, had this right "provided that occupier is not acting capriciously or on the basis of racial or other prejudice".   Mayor Hubbard's actions, which included refusing Ms. Bright speaking rights on a number of previous and subsequent occasions, were apparently not deemed prejudicial by Judge Hubble due to His Honour's failure to mention this evidence in his judgment.  The Judge also did not seem to mind that neither the Police constable nor Auckland Council Service's Manager Peter Burden could recall whether they had specifically issued a trespass warning to Ms. Bright before arresting her.  The case included prosecution submissions and defense submissions  

Given the stigma of a criminal conviction, Ms. Bright said she is determined to appeal Judge Hubble's decision.  Back to front page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Judge files

Information on New Zealand Judges compiled from public and private sources, including all information submitted by the judges themselves

MACKENZIE, Alan Donald

 

 

 

 

 

Professional Data:             2010 Judge Survey Score (1-10)     Ranking (out of 60) 

Postion & Titles:  
Judge of: High Court, Wellington, since 2004  
Specializations and Professional Interests:  
Professional Comments: Generally mild mannered and in quiet control.  Justice MacKenzie's low ranking is the result of a broad perception that his legal skills, judgment and articulation of the English language do not rise to the level of his peers.
Background / Education: Attended Otago University, graduating BA in 1966 and LLB in 1967. He joined Chapman Tripp & Co in Wellington in 1967 as a staff solicitor, moving to Stone Kurta & Co in 1970. He became a partner of the firm, now Stone & Co., in 1971 and gained an LLM 2nd class 1st div (Hons) the same year. He continued as a partner when the firm became Rudd Watts & Stone in 1983. In 2001 he became a barrister sole. He was appointed to the bench of the High Court in 2004.
Degrees: BA Otago, 1966, LLB Otago, 1997, LLM (Hons.) 1971
Admitted to the Bar: 1967
Company Involvements:

 


Personal Data

Born: 1944 Sex: Male
Married: 19 Children:  
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences:

 

Miscellaneous:  

 

THE CRIME OF CANDOR

31 March 2010
New Zealanders live with pervasive suppression orders by judges.  The extent of the information being suppressed is anyone's guess.  In an interview with a TV3 reporter earlier this year, University of Canterbury associate law professor Ursula Cheer responded "there are hundreds of suppression orders made every week".  Yet we are told to trust and take comfort that our judges who are politically appointed for life would not suppress that which is important for us to know. 
 
Contrast this with the current prosecution of Barrister Chris Comeskey by the New Zealand Law Society for criticising judges.  His prosecution seems to confirm that tyranny and oppression are the inevitable result of a government telling its citizens what they are allowed to know, see or say - no matter how noble the motives. 
 
The consequences are severe; the equivalent of an economic life sentence.  The Law Society are threatening to take Mr Comeskey's livelihood away for saying too many NZ judges " have parked their commonsense on the window ledge" and "forget their crucial function in delivering justice". 
 
It is generally conceded Mr Comeskey's expressed opinions are sincerely held.  In other words, he isn't being prosecuted for lying.  Once upon a time, we relished someone in such a privileged position giving informed opinions.  One would think this is particularly valuable given the cloistered way in which the NZ judiciary operates, largely out of the public view. 
 
What does it say of New Zealand when criticising judges is tantamount to "bringing the judiciary into disrepute" and punishable by loss of profession?  Fair criticism of judges used to be a fundamental right in a democracy.  None other than Lord Robin Cooke was lauded a generation ago for his often sharp legal criticisms.  In contrast, Nelson lawyer Sue Grey was fired from her Crown job in 2008 for criticising - quite appropriately as it turned out - Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson for presiding over the Saxmere v Wool Board appeal where the Judge's business partner (and personal banker) appeared before him.
 
One big problem is the often incestuous relationship which exists between the judges and many who appear before them.  Crown Law is a particular concern.  Just last week, High Court Judge Lester Chisolm dismissed a judicial review of a case which exposed the Christchurch Crown Prosecutor cancelling and rescheduling trial settings without the approval of any judge.  Chisolm J did not even reflect before issuing his oral judgment which determined it was okay for the prosecutor to adopt the power of a Queen's judge in New Zealand -- in a case he was actively prosecuting. 
 
These would seem cause enough for just criticism.  But Mr Comeskey had more personal reasons.  Mr Comeskey's comments about the quality of the court judgments being "abysmal" were prompted by a Whanganui District Court Judge ordering him to testify against one of his clients.   It was not the threat of nuclear holocaust which motivated the judge.  The case concerned his client allegedly being involved in the theft of war medals from a history museum. 

Lawyer/client privilege is a cornerstone to every law-respecting culture.  But the Law Society will not defend this cornerstone because the breach is by a judge.  According to their logic, such a challenge would bring the justice system into disrepute. 
 
So if lawyers cannot criticise judges who reject lawyer/client privilege, or insist the presiding judge be impartial, one must legitimately question what laws are sacrosanct in the NZ Courts.   Since the loss of the Privy Council, it seems the only law (more precisely, a rule) that is unassailable is that judges cannot be criticised. 
 
Take the case of Barrister Evgeny Orlov, who took a pro bono case against the Ministry of Social Development on behalf of a couple whose two children were taken away from them without a hearing.  Judge Rhys Harrison dismissed the claim on the grounds the State agency could not be sued - then awarded costs against the lawyer!   Mr Orlov sharply criticised Harrison J, resulting in a protracted prosecution of Mr Orlov by the New Zealand Law Society after Judge Harrison made a complaint.
 
Predictably, these rulings are turning practicing lawyers into judicial lackeys.  Lawyers have a bad enough reputation without judges making lawyers fearful of standing up for the rule of law, valiantly representing their clients or challenging judicial conflicts of interest - let alone insitutionalising disregard for lawyer/client privilege.  As seen with Orlov and Comeskey, those lawyers who do not bow to judicial fiat, are brutally ostacised and worse.   It is invariably the public which suffers.
 
The situation has deteriorated rapidly since the loss of the independent Privy Council.  In New Zealand, judges prefer lawyers rely on case law (judge made law) rather than statute.  The problem is there is very little consistency in New Zealand case law.  This leaves maximum discretion for the judge.  Lawyers are petrified about offending the sensitivities of the presiding judge, duly mindful the law means far less on the day than the judge's whim.
 
Since the Supreme Court replaced the Privy Council, NZ judges have consolidated unprecedented power.  And no accountability.  In 2004, they gutted the Judicial Matters Bill of any effective oversight of judges.  In Gregory v Gollan last year, the Supreme Court overturned the Judicature Act provision which still states parties to litigation can "require" trial by jury.  The Supreme Court bench declared that trial by jury can now only occur if a judge exercises "discretion" to allow it.  Then, in Easton v Broadcasting Commission, the Supreme Court condoned judges imposing discretionary cost impediments (security) against litigants even where such discretion will render a meritorious claim nugatory.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted leave to the Attorney General to appeal A-G v Chapman on the ground that judicial conduct is exempt from damages under the Bill of Rights Act.
 
Notwithstanding these, Saxmere v Wool Board is the watershed case which has awoken the business world to the insular world of New Zealand judges and the consequent legal risk to conducting operations in New Zealand.  That New Zealand brought retired Australian Chief Justice Murray Gleeson over to analyse Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson's conduct in the debacle, and then quietly sent him off packing, has many New Zealand businesses considering their own packing.  Wilson's fellow judges are counting on Kiwi apathy to prevail in what is already a two year long scandal.  The problem is that businesses cannot afford to ignore the message in the government allowing Wilson to stay on New Zealand's highest court in such a high-profile conflict of interest case.  BACK TO FRONT PAGE
 

 

NEW ZEALAND SUPREME COURT GUTS JUDGE DISCLOSURE LAW

At one point the Justices concluded judicial bias could not be supported because Mr Galbraith's fees were not determined by the outcome.  They stated Mr Galbraith got paid the same however Justice Wilson would have ruled.

The Court took a remarkably parochial view overall, focusing on a minor component of Mssrs. Galbraith and Wilson's business operations to the notable omission of their horse ranch.  As to the former, the Court ruling wryly summarised "The three broodmare partnerships would appear to any observer to be small in scale and quite unremarkable."

Mr Galbraith submitted an affidavit stating that he was unaware that Judge Wilson would be on the panel when he accepted instructions to act in the appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Canterbury Law Professor Duncan Webb considered Wilson J's breach of judicial conduct serious enough to make submissions to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner in early 2008.  Professor Webb's compelling legal case not only supported the grounds of Saxmere's counsel but left no doubt the Judge's relationship with counsel precluded his involvement in law - and that it was not up to the parties to make that decision.  Judicial Conduct Commissioner Ian Haynes dismissed that complaint, agreeing with Crown Law submissions made in defence of Judge Wilson that this matter was beyond the authority of his office.  Within three months Professor Webb was appointed Legal Complaints Review Officer, a Crown promotion some scholars saw as a move to force his silence on the matter.

Solicitor General David Collins personally appeared at the Supreme Court hearing as an "intervener" in the public interest.  His submissions claimed the Judge acted appropriately, noting it was common ground amongst the parties that Saxmere's former lawyer Francis Cooke QC was made aware that Galbraith and Wilson had a mutual interest in a racehorse.  In a dramatic sideshow, Mr Collins was forced to enter the Court through a back entrance under Police guard because of a reported threat to his life.  Before the hearing, the Solicitor General directed Saxmere's instructing solicitor Sue Grey be sacked from her job with the Department of Conservation by her boss Al Morrison, alleging her Crown position was incompatible with her client suing the Attorney General for alleged misconduct by a Court of Appeal Judge.  An employment case was subsequently filed by Ms Grey and is pending.

Until recently a photo of Judge Wilson and Alan Galbraith prominently promoted their Rich Hill Stud Ltd on their website.

Even in Judge Wilson's 19 December 2008 affidavit to the Supreme Court - upon which he now sits - he admitted "I thought that Mr Radford of Saxmere might have a concern about my association with Mr Galbraith".  However, in the very next line, the Judge stated "Because I considered there was no conflict, I thought that it would not be appropriate to make any formal disclosure."  Only in  Through the Looking Glass could a Judge convince the Highest Court that it was "not appropriate" for him to notify litigants of his conflict of interest after admitting he suspected the opposing side might be concerned about that conflict of interest. 

Let us follow this Judicial reasoning: (1) "I, the Judge, have a potential conflict of interest which the appellant might object to if he knew it", (2) "Regardless, I do not consider this a conflict despite this voice of conscience in my head", and therefore, (3) "I'm not going to disclose my potential conflict of interest because it would 'not be appropriate' to do so".   With such extraordinarily prudent legal reasoning, it is not surprising Bill Wilson was a practising lawyer three years ago and today he is on the New Zealand Supreme Court !  

Later this year New Zealand Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson is due to lecture overseas on how New Zealand Courts are more transparent (read 'just') than Australia and the United Kingdom.

Mr Radford was contacted by kiwisfirst but was too disheartened to comment beyond stating the ruling has not sunk in.  His lawyer could not be reached.

The Supreme Court repeatedly stressed in the 48 page Judgment that the litmus test should be whether a fair-minded observer might conclude a Judge's relationship might raise the question of apparent bias.  Perhaps the real lesson here is that five judges on our highest court have ruled this case did not minimally rise to the threshold for required judicial disclosure.  #     RETURN TO FRONT PAGE

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