I thought that Justice Wilson would resign rather than go through the indignity of what is effectively a public impeachment trial via a judicial conduct panel, but he has chosen not to do so, hence Judith Collins 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 Judicial Conduct Commissioner 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
- Beverley Wakem, 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.