Supreme Court Justice John McGrath

McGRATH, John Joseph

 Supreme Court Justice John McGrath

Professional Data:

2014 Judge Survey Score (1-10):  7.3    Ranking (out of 63): 49thJustice John McGrath

Postion & Titles: QC,      Formerly Solicitor General
Judge of: Supreme Court, since 2005  Court of Appeal from
Specializations and Professional Interests:  Justice McGrath is a keen accumulator of gossip, probably as a result of his political roles.
Professional Comments: John McGrath J appointed himself to the Court of Appeal bench from his political appointment of NZ Solicitor General, with the quiet approval the Attorney General at the time.

McGrath J is smart, legally skilled and conservative on law and order issues.  Justice McGrath has no reluctance to choose ‘order’ over ‘law’ where he sees a conflict between the two.  He has more troublingly shown a willingness to contravene law to maintain order and protect fellow judges who commit offences (specifics below).  Politically manipulative and stauch protector of the status quo.

As a Jurist, McGrath J has not shown much regard for individual rights or transparency in litigation.  McGrath J considers rights must often take a back seat in a civil and orderly society, and has consistently demonstrated this in his rulings.  In specific cases:
In Brooker v Police [2007] NZSC 30, McGrath J dissented from the majority to opine his view that Mr Brooker’s conviction for disorderly conduct should be upheld as a result of Mr Brooker’s quiet and peaceful protest against a Gore Police Constable on a residential street.
In SC26/2007 [2007] NZSC 53, McGrath joined with Tipping J to rule it was legally acceptable to send a man to prison on hearsay evidence, and the presiding judge to prevent cross-examination of the hearsay witness, so long as the prosecution for imprisonment originated as an interlocutory application or a civil action.   The same day Mc Grath and Tipping’s ruling was made public, Potter J of the Auckland High Court relied upon this Supreme Court ruling to sentence Auckland man Vince Siemer to prison for six weeks.  Within a year, the current Solicitor General initiated several actions against various parties – including the ill-fated Tuhoe Terrorist debacle – by relying in part on this Supreme Court precedent.
In SC 62/2008 [2008] NZSC 98, Justices McGrath, Tipping and Blanchard ruled that Rule 12 of the High Court Amendment Rules 2004 – which abolished the long-standing requirement that parties to litigation provide identification of their discovery documents – was not a risk to justice or a matter of public or general importance.  Their ruling sanctioned the practice of list affidavits having no more than a list of numbers, effectively legalising discovery evasion in civil cases.
In SC 38/2009 [2009] NZSC 58, JusticeMcGrath joined Tipping and Blanchard again to deny trial by jury to an accused facing 7 years on a fraud charge.  The Justices rejected the statutory guarantees to jury under both the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and Crimes Act 1961 by asserting their right to discretion in contravening statute under s 361D of the Crimes Act, as well as a diversion by stating “the proposed grounds of appeal are quite hopeless. First of all, it is an impossible argument that a fair trial requires a trial by jury.”   Counsel did not rely on this subjective argument but raised it merely in the context of why trial by jury had such historical significance.
The accused was subsequently found guilty by District Court Judge Epati and sentenced to 5 years. The ruling was overturned on appeal, with Judge Epati taking an indefinite leave of absence under a cloud of corruption and suspicion. Another judge-alone trial is set for late 2011.
In SC120/2009Attorney General v Chapman [2011] NZSC 110, Justice McGrath joined with Young and Gault JJ in the majority judgment which ruled the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and International Conventions are not enforceable, and no similar statutory remedies are lawful, against acts done by judicial officers. Elias CJ and Anderson J dissented.

None of this is surprising.  Justice McGrath, when Solicitor General, proved masterful in concealing judicial corruption and criminal conduct in New Zealand.  One of the most notorious cases is of former District Court Judge Michael Lance QC, who jumped jurisdictions to preside over the prosecution of his son Simon’s legal partner for perverting the course of justice in the 1990’s.  In the judge alone trial, Judge Lance acquitted the accused despite audio phone recordings of the lawyer attempting to blackmail the lead investigator in a drug distribution case.  When the police found out about the judge’s untoward and undisclosed relationship, McGrath refused Police requests to prosecute the judge, claiming it was not in the public interest.  McGrath then sealed the prosecution file.  Judge Lance went on to wreak havoc in a number of cases and, in 2010, was himself acquitted of criminal wilful damage (in a judge alone trial) after repeated complaints of the Judge “keying” cars which parked in front of his Brown’s Bay condominium.

In August 2012, Justice John McGrath wrote submissions on behalf of the entire New Zealand judiciary, lobbying Parliament to not pass the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill which would require judges to maintain a register of their financial interests – to guard against conflicts of interest.  Justice McGrath argued the Bill was unnecessary, stating no evidence exists of judicial corruption and, therefore, “prevention of corruption provides no justification for the establishment of a register of judges’ pecuniary interests in New Zealand.”  McGrath went on to claim to Parliament that the “open and transparent court processes” provide adequate protection against judicial corruption notwithstanding a prohibition imposed by the Supreme Court Registrar against anyone accessing public records at New Zealand’s highest court – a prohibition which is currently the subject of legal challenge before the Supreme Court (SC59/2014).

Background / Education: Graduated LLM from Victoria University of Wellington in 1968. He was as a partner in Buddle Findlay, in Wellington, until he moved to the separate bar in 1984. He became Queen’s Counsel in 1987 and he was Solicitor-General between 1989 and 2000. Justice McGrath was appointed to the Court of Appeal in July 2000 and to the Supreme Court in May 2005.
Degrees: LLM Victoria, 1968
Admitted to the Bar: 1968
Company Involvements:

Personal Data

Born: 10/03/1945
Wellington, New Zealand
Sex: Male
Married: 1969
Christine Ann Swallow
Children:  2 ( Lucy Caroline b.1972, Thomas James b.1974)
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences: