Judicial Conduct Panel Proceedings

I’m at the initial hearing of the Judicial Conduct Panel, hearing the complaints against Justice Wilson. It started shortly after 10 am.

One of my media benchmates asked me if I knew about the 30 minute delay on live reporting. I thought they were kidding, but in fact they were saving me from a contempt charge, as the rules for the hearing do specify no live broadcast or reporting, including over the Internet.

So I’ll only be able to start reporting the substance at around 10.40 am, and am going to have to try and keep in my head how long ago something was said!

We wondered if it would be like a normal court, and we should stand when the panel entered. The clerk removed the need for us having to guess by saying “All Stand”.

Justice Wilson had failed last week to injunct the panel before his judicial review hearing, but the panel decided (as all counsels agreed) to delay the substantive hearings until after the judicial review which is set down for 1 to 3 September.

They mentioned that Sir Ted Thomas had also written in urging a delay. After his evidence was found to be largely incorrect hearsay by the Commissioner, I’m surprised he is still offering his opinions on the issues.

The next meeting of the panel is set for Friday 1 October.

The former wool board is represented by counsel, but mentioned that if no other parties apply to be represented, they will not continue to attend. Hence it will be just the counsel for Justice Wilson and the Special Counsel.

One significant problem is that it seems the Acting Attorney-General has not formally referred the exact issues around Justice Wilson to the panel as required by the Act. The Special Counsel will seek a formal referral letter through the Solicitor-General, and then use that to effectively place “charges” against Justice Wilson. The use of “charges” does not mean criminal behaviour, just alleged misbehaviour for a Judge.

The panel recessed at around 10.30 am and will come back shortly to record a formal minute, and it should all be over by 11 am.

The panel chair has read out a minute, and this initial session is concluded. The next stage is the judicial review. I’m too busy to spend three days in court covering it, but may pop in for the opening and closing.

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