The NZ Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee has been considering the issues raised by the interference of two Bench Heads with a case before Judge Peter Callinicos. Unlike the terrible report from the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, the Rule of Law Committee has found much to be concerned about. Some extracts:
- Engagement to discuss judicial conduct when the proceeding is ongoing is highly unconventional, made even more so by the attempted communication not involving all parties to the proceeding
- A discussion between a party (Oranga Tamariki) and the Heads of Bench and then a consequential discussion between the Heads of Bench and the sitting judge, in the absence of every party, or without their prior consent, cannot be reconciled with the right to natural justice and open justice
- If a party to a proceeding (Oranga Tamiriki) can secure meetings with the Heads of Bench with the sitting judge while a case is part-held, then the same access should be available to all litigants otherwise there is inequality of access to justice
- This has the potential to undermine public confidence in the independence of the judiciary and in open justice
- The informal way in which the allegations of inappropriate judicial conduct have been dealt with is highly undesirable
- Private meetings between a party to a current proceeding and a Head of Bench while the relevant proceeding is part-heard, to discuss conduct in that proceeding, are inappropriate
I’ve embedded below the full memo. This is very significant. The criticisms by the Rule of Law Committee are strong and hopefully the full Law Society had taken them up with the Chief Justice and Attorney General.