Justice Wilson’s Judicial Conduct Panel

May 31st, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought that would resign rather than go through the indignity of what is effectively a public impeachment trial via a , but he has chosen not to do so, hence has announced the composition of the panel.

I hasten to add that Justice Wilson obviously strongly believes he has not done anything wrong, or any errors in conduct made by him are relatively minor and do not undermine his ability to continue on the Supreme Court. He has every right to stand by his beliefs, and to have these tested through the process. And if the panel does not recommend his dismissal, he should be able to move on and continue on the Supreme Court.

I should praise the last Labour Government for passing the and Judicial Conduct Panel Act 2004. Before that act was passed, the Attorney-General could follow pretty much any process they wanted to determine whether to recommend dismissal. This is a fair and transparent process.

The panel appointed by Judith Collins is:

  • Justice Tony Randerson, previously the Chief High Court Judge and now a Judge of the Court of Appeal
  • Justice Helen Winkelmann, the Chief High Court Judge
  • , the Chief Ombudsman

No one can dispute the suitability of this panel. A former and current chief of the High Court, plus the country’s chief ombudsman as the lay member. They are the two most senior judges who have not been direct judicial colleagues.

Justice Randerson will be the chair of the panel, as he is the senior judge.

From a public point of view, it will be a fascinating process to witness what will effectively be a public impeachment trial of a Judge of our highest court. This is a once in a life time experience.

The next step is for Judith Collins to appoint a special counsel to present the case against Justice Wilson. He can also appoint a lawyer (or represent himself), and other people can apply to be represented also. I suspect Mr Galbraith will avail himself of that right.

The Ministry of Justice will announce in due course the date of the hearing, and the venue.

UPDATE: This is incredible. Justice Wilson is seeking a judicial review of the findings of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, and a possible injunction against the Judicial Conduct Panel.

This is a high risk strategy by Justice Wilson. His fellow Judges will be squirming with discomfort I suspect.

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30 Responses to “Justice Wilson’s Judicial Conduct Panel”

  1. GPT1 (2,122 comments) says:

    How embarrassing. I would have thought the mea culpa routine would have kicked in by now – not for the conflict of interest (which was minimal at best) but the dogs bollocks handling of the issue by His Honour. Await with interest.

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  2. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    We can only hope that the Judges don’t protect mates and whitewash it all.

    Wilson has to go.

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  3. peterwn (3,274 comments) says:

    Some years back two District Court judges were caught allegedly claiming false expenses. One resigned from the bench and was effectively ‘struck off’ for some years (I say effectively as the Law Society declined him a practicing certificate, smething judges do not need). The other blustered his way out of it and there was no legal basis for his removal from the bench. He was moved to ACC cases.

    Mr Justice Wilson is by all accounts a very smart judge, and probably considers the outcome will be favourable, so why throw in the towel at this stage.

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  4. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    As Richard Cornes notes:

    Principles of natural justice, and the statute which establishes the Office of Judicial Conduct Commissioner, require that Justice Wilson must be given proper opportunity to answer the allegations of misconduct.

    The constitutional imperative of judicial independence requires that no judge should be hounded from their court on the basis of media pressure.

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  5. wreck1080 (3,922 comments) says:

    Humiliating too if he loses.

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  6. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    A public impeachment trial via a judicial conduct panel…. Shows Justice Wilson has faith that the New Zealand Justice system will up hold his indignity for a place on the Supreme Court… 1 shows our judicial system is floored with favoritism towards its own… 2 Why should we have any faith that Justice Wilson will be recommend his dismissal by them.

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  7. big bruv (13,923 comments) says:

    Cue spitting and frothing about “devious judges and the nasty feminists” from our mayoral candidate.

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  8. freethinker (691 comments) says:

    From my limited knowledge of the fine detail, owing $250,000 to a barrister in a case you preside over in the publics mind is a conflict of interest that even if fully disclosed would make credible justice best served by removing yourself and Wilson’s apparent inability to recognize this surely questions his ability to be an impartial arbiter at such a high level. I also uphold his right to present his case and who knows what substantial new information may do to change perception but find it strange Wilson has not presented this, perhaps this will be drip fed a bit like his disclosures.

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  9. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Agreed DPF, a wholly appropriate panel. They should be able to reach an impartial decision because no matter what the outcome they’re all in positions where there are unlikely to be repercussions.

    Not so the “special prosecutor”. Even if you lose you’d be seen as having risen above your station to question the propriety of a judge, and that’s a fast track to an unpleasant future. Just ask David Stevenson.

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  10. Nookin (3,352 comments) says:

    The battle lines are being drawn .
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/3758484/Supreme-Court-judge-applys-for-judicial-review

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  11. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    “No one can dispute the suitability of this panel. ”

    Well that’s not what who-ever writes the Judges Files on “Kiwis First” site would say. Their files state that the chief characteristic of each of these judges is to defend the judicial system and the integrity of its’ members at any cost.

    [DPF: That is the site whose author is currently meant to be serving three months for contempt of court?]

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  12. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    Perhaps we should all wait and see what happens, rather than judge the man before all the facts are known, as some of the media seems to be trying to do.

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  13. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    On the judicial review, I doubt that any of the High Court Judges in New Zealand would be comfortable hearing this application so i would suspect that there will be an Australian Judge appointed as a temporary judge to hear the matter.

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  14. David Farrar (1,898 comments) says:

    Alex: It certainly is a huge problem. The JCC is the check and balance on Judges, and I can;t imagine any Judge would want to judicially review the findings of the JCC. If they overturn it they’ll be condemned for cronyism.

    An Australian Judge may be the person to review it, but worth remembering the former Chief Justice of Australia assisted the JCC with his review.

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  15. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    On the judicial review, I doubt that any of the High Court Judges in New Zealand would be comfortable hearing this application so i would suspect that there will be an Australian Judge appointed as a temporary judge to hear the matter.

    That seems highly unlikely.

    I would go so far as to predict a full bench, but that would be it.

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  16. kyotolaw (52 comments) says:

    Hmmm.

    I wonder if Justice Wilson realises that this is likely his last paying gig in the legal industry in New Zealand, and has decided that its cheaper to pay lawyers to stall for time, than to give up his $410,000 salary?

    Lawyers are nothing if not expert at running up the billable hours by delaying, delaying, delaying…

    Not to mention he has a $250,000 debt he needs to pay!

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  17. fatman43us (166 comments) says:

    Remember when we had a Privy Council to deal with High Level appeals and issues?

    Maybe Helen did get rid of the baby too!

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  18. jims_whare (403 comments) says:

    I wonder if he will apply for legal aid? Heh though even with his salary the cost of his own lawyer may cause a loss for him.

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  19. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    TripeWryter (285) Says:
    May 31st, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I am not a legal beagle so don’t care about points of law, common sense is of more concern to me.
    Both Galbraith and Wilson being in such a relationship of such magnitude fiscally and being in conflict (as Galbraith pressing Wilson for the monies) should have disclosed said facts to the full court at the beginning.

    That Galbraith is not part of a judicial review is worrying to me and that Wilson has not resigned is more so.

    That the Attorney General, Minister of Justice and Head of The Supreme Court did not step in immediately this came to their attention means I as an ordinary member of the public do not have faith in our judiciary right now as this has unfolded, nor do I have faith in our system as I think the judgment of the people at the very top is suspect.

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  20. DNJ (4 comments) says:

    I suspect they will try to find someone who doesn’t know Justice Wilson well – perhaps a relatively new judge.

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  21. calendar girl (1,241 comments) says:

    MikeNZ: So everyone’s guilty before a word of evidence has even been presented?

    Do calm down, there’s a process to be followed. It can be criticised afterwards if you wish (but I hope that you’re honest and acquaint yourself first with all the facts if you do that). Meantime your rush to condemn everybody in sight merely trivialises what is a serious issue for our rule of law. I commend to you again the thoughts of Trypewryter at 3.26pm – clearly you dismissed his / her advice the first time you read it.

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  22. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Calender girl
    Oh you are so correct whoop de dooo. no evidence laid.
    Meantime your rush to condemn everybody in sight merely trivialises what is a serious issue for our rule of law.

    Oh I am so sorry I’ve trivialised a high court Judge and QC knowingly go into court knowing that someone (coddingtons husband) has remonstrated with the judge to dismiss himself because he is in a compromising position due to monies owed to said QC which said QC was pressing him for whilst appearing before him and said QC never told his clients that he was compromising them as well as the court and the system of justice and the said Judge knowingly behaved in a deceitful manner to people by not disclosing the full extent of the relationship, even when asked repeatedly.

    OH I am so sorry, who am I to comment but some small little guy who doesn’t occupy the strata of our illustrious legal fraternity.

    They have put both the court and the clients positions in jeopardy and I am trivilising what they have done?
    DUH.

    Sure there is a process but there needn’t have been had there?
    If they had been honest and transparent about the situation in the first place.
    Now the system has been brought into question. in short it has been damaged by their actions.
    For that alone they forfiet their right to stand in court again when it has been proven ….. good enough for you.

    That Galbraith is not part of a judicial review is worrying to me and that Wilson has not resigned is more so.

    What don’t you understand about that? what is trivial about the statement?

    Sure no evidence has been laid, accept people’s words of what they said and to whom and when to the parties involved.

    Now it seems a man’s whole career will be washed down the toilet because of what he has done in the last 5 mins of it.
    what a waste, as I am sure he has done a lot of good, at least I hope he has.

    I don’t hear of an enquiry into Galbraith’s conduct by the law society, are they hoping it will go away?

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  23. JayMal (28 comments) says:

    Wilson obviously believes very strongly that he’s been held to an unreasonable standard. My read is that he (and others) believe the finding of POSSIBLE misconduct is more a result of media speculation and public pressure than any JUST finding on the facts.

    OK, fair enough for Wilson, in his case I might feel the same. But the reason we’re even debating this is because we need for justice to be seen to be done. Wilson, at best, made an error of judgement and in the interests of public confidence it needs to be seen to be fully investigated in order to retain public confidence in the justice system. He may quite rightly feel he’s been persecuted a bit out of proportion to his actions, but someone in his position should be big enough to suck it up, take it on the chin and wait for the panel to find him innocent of any wrong doing.

    The problem for us average people is the only reason we can think of to try to stop the proceedings is if you are worried about the result. I know this isnt necessarily the case, but its how it looks.

    Finally, I disagree with MikeNZ that he should have resigned. Remember there was no allegation Wilson was being actively pursued for money and the nature of the debt was more a paper debt and not quite how the media have represented it. There is sufficient information for me that ‘on balance’ Wilson may have done nothing wrong at all, so shouldnt be forced to resign until he’s had the case heard.

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  24. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Jaymal
    If you check the reports, I read that Deborah Coddington’s husband, who is a QC, went to Wilson twice to remonstrate with him to fully disclose and at that time it became apparent that Galbraith had pressed him for the monies in the period that the court case had been onthe books.

    That’s why i don’t understand why the law society hasn’t pinged Galbraith as well as I read it in the beginning of the reporting, which they could have.

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  25. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    Is he a freemason?

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  26. artivision (1 comment) says:

    The system is utterly corrupt.

    I have submitted a claim of an intent to pervert the course of Justice by a High Court Judge – to the JCC.

    The claim is irrefutable – it is based entirely on Court documents and no amount of legal verbal masturbation (sorry I’m angry) could here argue black is white.

    The Judge flagrantly lied in his direction – with the intent of assisting one parties interests over another.The entire Judgement is so clearly consistent with his lie that it would be laughable if I had not lost my home as a result.

    The JCC has gone to ground and is ignoring me – refusing to respond.If I was wrong it would be a simple matter for him to repudiate.

    This “Judge” is a blemish on the Judicial system as well as on the name of his father.With Judges like this New Zealand becomes the Zimbabwe of the south Pacific.

    asmussen@exemail.com.au

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