High Court Justice Judith Potter

JUSTICE Judith Marjorie POTTER

Judge Judith Potter

Professional Data                  2010 Judge Survey Score (1-10)    Ranking (out of 60)

Postion & Titles: Retired in 2011 and now serving on Pitcairn Island Court and the NZ Dairy Board.

Former President of the New Zealand Law Society 1991 -1994, Former President of the Auckland District Law Society 1988, QC

Judge of:  High Court Auckland, since 1997 Retired in 2012 but has had her warrant renewed to sit as needed
Specializations and Professional Interests: Justice Potter has had a career-long interest in pariticipating in the political, governing and administrative functions of the legal profession. Active in Commercial law when she was not greasing the bureaucratic wheels
Professional Comments: In an informal survey of barristers who regularly practise before the Court, Justice Juditih Potter J was considered the worst sitting New Zealand judge.  This was largely due to her emotional manner and her propensity to disregard the rules and laws she has sworn to uphold.

Judge Potter is not considered to be much of a legal scholar but she has worked very hard in her long working life at the tedious bureaucratic jobs that most inspired and successful lawyers shun – yet jobs which invariably benefit those willing to put in the hard yards by bestowing up them skills on how to work the bureaucracy to personal advantage and cement relationships among other bureaucrats and lawyers she has helped navigate the bureaucracy.

Judge Judith Potter wears her emotions on her sleeve and is unapologetically protective of her friends, the latter trait no doubt a benefit in her bureaucratic functions but ill-suited to her judicial duties of impartiality. She is impulsive and instinctual in her judicial approach and is widely regarded as a judge who does not follow the law when the law does not suit her objectives. Because she can be personally vindictive and has powerful connections, she is at once one of the least respected and most feared High Court judges.

Potter J occasionally has acted as a fill-in judge at the Court of Appeal level. An upshot of Potter’s many years associating with the stalwarts of New Zealand business and industry is her propensity to unduly assist those past associates who appear before her. Of particular concern is her past association with the NZ Guardian Trust Company Ltd. Moreover, do not expect her to disclose those relationships when they occur. In 2005 Potter was caught out for ruling in favour of her brother-in-law (defendant KG McCormick) – without disclosing her close family relationship to opposing counsel.  A formal complaint of judicial misconduct was lodged by Counsel months later when he discovered the Judge’s concealed relationship.  In June 2005, Chief High Court Justice Randerson refused to discipline Potter for this indiscretion, calling her ruling merely ‘procedural’ in nature.  It is strongly advisable that all litigants appearing before Potter J make a documented request before commencement of any proceeding that she disclose the extent of her relationships, past and present, with opposing parties and their counsel.

Potter J has single handedly kept the Court of Appeal in business, due both to her workhorse caseload at the lower court level and the number of appeals to her decisions taken to the appellate court.  Her decisions are often overturned out of necessity but her judge peers show her extreme deference in going out of their way to praise Potter J as they overturn her judgments.   It has become so bad, that in August 2007, Potter J’s conviction of high-profile murderer Antonie Dixon was thrown out due to her multiple misconduct.  However, in a rare and inexplicable ruling, the Court of Appeal refused to divulge what the judicial misconduct was.  Considering the function of the Court of Appeal is two-fold – to correct poor judgments as well as provide legal discipline through clearly understood precedent – the Court of Appeal’s actions were bizarre.  No doubt the Court of Appeal judges felt a public uproar would ensue if the public became aware of Potter J’s actions in this high profile murder case where the new trial is expected to cost NZ taxpayer’s close to $2 million.

In another breach of law and natural justice, Judge Potter twice presided over the conviction of a 14 year old girl  Pacific Island imprisoned for home invasion where two people were charged and the sole witness was an elderly, partially blind man whose evidence was initially that only one person was involved.  The girl was drunk at the time she was pressured into confessing.  Potter allowed the confession to be presented to a jury.  The first appeal of Potter’s judgment was overturned by the Privy Council and a new trial ordered as part of the infamous R v Taito Case which resulted in scathing criticism by the Privy Council of systemic procedural misconduct within the NZ Courts.  The new trail occurred before Judge Potter again and the girl was found guilty and given a four year eight month priosn sentence.  The appeal this time went all the way to the Supreme Court Jessop v Queen (the Privy Council by then abolished by the Supreme Court Act 2004).  The New Zealand Supreme Court chose to criticise the lawyer bringing the appeal and defend the Court in dismissing the set aside application.

The Jessop case aside, a large minority have suggested a racist bent to Potter’s conduct in Court.  Potter ruled in favour of racial profiling, specifically advocating targeting people who look like “west Africans” for more thorough searches by NZ Customs at International arrival ports.

In August 2007 a petition for a Parliamentary Select Committee of Inquiry was sponsored by MP Rodney Hide after Potter convicted and sentenced businessman Vince Siemer to six weeks prison for contempt of a gagging injunction relating to a three year old unproven civil defamation case – this contempt trial hurriedly conducted by Potter J during Siemer’s known two-week absence from the Country.  Eight months later, Potter J made front page news for aborting a criminal trial in order that her holiday to South America not be delayed.  The Sunday News reported that this move by Potter J would necessitate a new trial in 2009 at substantial delay and huge cost to New Zealand taxpayers.

Background / Education: Judge Judith Potter graduated from University of Auckland with LLB in 1965. She became a partner in Wallace McLean Bawden & Partners and then with Kensington Swann after the firms were merged. Potter was President of the Auckland District Law Society in 1988 and President of the New Zealand Law Society from 1991 to 1994. She was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1994.
Degrees: Potter J received an LLB (Auckland) 1965
Admitted to the Bar: 1980
Company Involvements: Potter J is a former Member of the Securities Commission.  Potter J was a director of the Electricity Corporation from 1994 to her judicial appointment in 1997. Also a Director of the NZ Guardian Trust Company Ltd.  Fellow of the Institute of Directors of New Zealand.

Personal Data

Born: 23/08/42
Mt Eden, New Zealand
Sex: Female
Married: Children:
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences: Judith Potter J relished her roles rubbing shoulders with the captains of industry and the legal profession prior to her judicial appointment. She has nurtured these relationships since. This is of particular concern to those who naively believe she can be an impartial arbiter when it means compromising her obligations to these personal associates. She was caught out ruling on behalf of her brother-in-law on a case in 2005 but Chief High Court Justice Randerson dismissed the formal complaint that resulted against her on the basis Potter’s ruling was ‘procedural’ in nature.

Ms Potter understands the value of her commitment to these individuals when she needs their protection. If you have a sound case in law but consider the parties may have favour with Justice Potter, it is advisable to seek another judge at any cost.

Miscellaneous:  Judith Potter J’s father and grandfather were former Mayors of Mt Eden and Mt Roskill respectively in the first half of the 20th century.  She has long ties to these areas.
Justice Judith Potter. LLB. Justice Judith Potter became a High Court judge in May 1997 after many years as a senior partner in Kensington Swan, Auckland.
www.alumni.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/for/alumni/profiles/profiles/m_p/judith_potter.cfm – 11k – CachedSimilar pages
[PDF]

9 Annual Ethel Benjamin Commemorative Address 10 August 2005

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Justice Judith Potter. Women’s Contribution to Law Reform. It is a thrill and a challenge for me to present the 2005 Ethel Benjamin commemorative address. I
lawyers.org.nz/wcg/files/9th%20Annual%20Ethel%20Benjamin%20Commemorative%20Address.pdf – Similar pages
[PDF]

2005 Annual Conference

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Justice Judith Potter. Lester Levy. “The self-efficacy of. young adults often. grows from the fact. that their teachers. believed in them…”
www.agsa.org.au/inalliance/32.pdf – Similar pages

Ethel Benjamin Prize Winners 2002

THE first woman president of the NZLS and one of the country’s most senior High Court Judges, Justice Judith Potter will deliver the 9th annual Ethel
www.lawfoundation.org.nz/news/eb-prize-address.htm – 6k – CachedSimilar pages

Ethel Benjamin Prize Winners 2002

The 9th Annual Ethel Benjamin Commemorative Address Given by Justice Judith Potter 10 August 2005 WOMEN’S CONTRIBUTION TO LAW REFORM IN NEW ZEALAND
www.lawfoundation.org.nz/news/eb-address-2005.htm – 44k – CachedSimilar pages

The Judges of the High Court | Courts of New Zealand

Justice Judith Potter graduated LLB from the University of Auckland in 1965. She became a partner in Wallace McLean Bawden & Partners and then in the
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Jury in Rickards trial retires for night – New Zealand, world

Justice Judith Potter told the jury of eight men and four women this morning that what other people may have said outside the courtroom about the trial was
stuff.co.nz/3977340a10.html – Similar pages

Judgement favours developers – Local News on Stuff.co.nz

In her ruling Justice Judith Potter said the developers were mainly successful in their court action. She found errors in law in aspects of the council’s
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New Zealand Herald

In a reserved decision, Justice Judith Potter said the allocation of costs for the stations placed in sharp focus the council’s exacerbator-pays/causation
www.nzherald.co.nz/search/story.cfm?storyid=000E86E4-A86A-1607-B02C83027AF1010F – 23k – CachedSimilar pages

Wife-killer loses appeal bid – 30 Mar 2007 – NZ Herald: New

In the High Court at Auckland last October, Justice Judith Potter jailed Zhou, a New Zealand resident, for life, with a minimum term of 17 years in jail.
www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10431569 – 27k – CachedSimilar pages
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JUDGE JUDY UNDER FIRE FOR ABORTING TRIAL.  POWERFUL QC CALLS POTTER “An embarrassment to the Court”

27 March 2008
New evidence is coming to light over Auckland High Court Judge Judy Potter aborting a multiple defendant criminal trial lat week so that her six-week South American Holiday was not delayed.  Seven days into the expected ten-day trial, Potter J called an abrupt end to proceedings, saying she had to catch a flight out in three days time (Good Friday) to attend a judicial conference in Panama at taxpayer expense, conveniently followed by Her Honour’s extended ‘sabbatical’ ( called ‘holiday’ to all those less privileged) in the region.

The Ministry of Justice quickly came to the embattled judge’s defence, stating it was the lawyers on each side of the case who caused this anticipated one-week trial to extend into twice that long, thereby forcing the judge to abort the trial.  The lawyers involved refused to comment in response, fearing the certain wrath of the Court that would eventuate from setting the record straight.

The simple fact is the presiding judge controls their courtroom.  Potter J is notorious for taking hour and a half lunches and further 25 minute breaks in the morning and in the afternoon, a practice that was not curtailed in this trial.  There is little question the trial could have concluded had Potter J better managed the proceedings and tea breaks.  As a result of her inept management, the overburdened Courts must now schedule a new trial for sometime next year – at substantial additional cost to the taxpayers, as well as to natural justice.  More troublesome, the Ministry of Justice has gone silent on why Potter aborted the trial on a Tuesday when her scheduled flight was not until three days later.

In response to the public uproar, the Ministry of Justice has claimed that Potter J’s flight could not be rescheduled.   Perhaps realizing the absurdity of such a claim, the Ministry attempted to bolster it by stating Potter had booked the flight a long time ago and was entitled to her holiday.

New Zealand Minister of Justice (and retired dental assistant) Annette King was unavailable for comment.  While talk radio was abuzz, few lawyers would go on the record with comments over the episode.  The reactions of several prominent barristers and academics ranged from uncomfortable laughs to expressed hopes that something constructive comes from the media expose of the judge’s conduct (the expose itself a rarity in New Zealand).  One had to laugh at the Sunday-News’ tempered comment that Potter J was a “highly-respected” judge, a term he claimed to have never heard from anyone with any experience before Judge Judy.

In 2005, Potter J was caught ruling on behalf of a defendant in a proceeding without disclosing the fact that the defendant was her brother-in-law (KG McCormick).  When the complaint of judicial misconduct went to the head of bench, Chief High Court Judge Anthony Randerson, Randerson ruled that he saw no problem with her undisclosed involvement, citing Potter’s ruling was ‘procedural in nature’ and did not go to the merits of the case.

Two years ago, Queen’s Counsel Grant Illingworth said of Potter “She’s an embarrassment to the Court”, adding “When she gets a bee in her bonnet, the law does not matter“.  Last July, Potter scheduled a contempt trial against Auckland Businessman Vince Siemer for allegedly breaching a gag injunction in an unproven civil defamation claim during his known two week absence from the country.  She found him guilty in absentia and sentenced him to six weeks in Mt Eden Prison for breaching the injunction.  A Parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances of the imprisonment was later killed by the Solicitor General David Collins on the false premise that the matter was sub judice.

The following month, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of high profile ‘samurai sword’ murderer Antonie Dixon due to judicial misconduct by Potter J in his jury trial and conviction.  The new trial is anticipated to cost the NZ taxpayer’s over $1 million.

Early this year, Potter J released Daniel Crichton in the infamous “medals for bail” deal after Silver Cross medals stolen from a war museum were returned in a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ quid pro quo.

Potter earns $370,000 per year, plus additional fringe benefits valued in the range of $40,000 per year.   BACK TO FRONT PAGE