Irreverent Justice Glazebrook

Why Justice Glazebrook is above the law

Lack of accountability has its privileges. But being a New Zealand Supreme Court judge is to be above any law, as Justice Susan Glazebrook (right) proved last week in dismissing a recall application by disenfranchised lawyer Tatsuhiko Koyama, and doing so through an administrative email, without reasons.

Lord Bingham, former Chief Justice of England defined the Rule of Law as application of law rather than discretion, highlighting the lynchpin role of judicial officers as stewards of the law or, conversely, the deacons of despotism.

It all starts out innocently enough. Judge Glazebrook, who has been on the Supreme Court for a year, is already known for dismissing applications to the Court privately, and without reasons, but last week she gave a hip-check to her dome-occupiers in purporting to dismiss Mr Koyama’s application without panel assent. Section 27 of the Supreme Court Act 2003 – one of the few laws which heretofore constrained Supreme Court judges’ conduct – requires a minimum 2 judges to dismiss an application.

Mr Koyama had alleged judicial breaches in the recall, which included Judge Glazebrook. This raised further concerns surrounding Ms Glazebrook’s unlawful dismissal of the application through a private email which not only hid the ruling or reasons for it but obscured the application itself. The email was sent out to the parties through the generic Supreme Court email address and was unrecorded. It included an “attachment” which was nothing more than the cover page of Mr Koyama’s application with Glazebrook’s refusal and signature scribbled across it.






Elsewhere in the rabbit hole, Humpty Dumpty came out of his chambers to declare a victory for the rule of law. The “independent bar” in New Zealand called Glazebrook an insightful judicial leader and the New Zealand legal practice manual McGechan on Procedure commenced a new chapter on this ‘evolving law’ which now allows judges to follow Judge Glazebrook’s example – but only to save wasteful expenditures on court scribes and parchment, and never for the sole purpose of keeping court judgments (even lawful ones) secret.






If you became confused as to where reality fused into fiction in this article, welcome to the land of milk, sheep and honey.