NEW ZEALAND JUDGE SLAMS PARLIAMENT FOR UNDERFUNDING JUDICIAL WATCHDOG
Posted On: Tuesday, 27 December 2011
PARLIAMENT SLAMMED BY JUDGE FOR UNDERFUNDING PUBLIC WATCHDOG
26 December 2011
In an unprecedented ruling, two days before Christmas, Auckland High Court Judge
Timothy Brewer condemned Parliament in an
18-page judgment which concluded Judicial Conduct Commissioner David Gascoigne's inability to deal properly with mounting complaints of misconduct against NZ judges is the result of Parliament's failure to allocate funding.
The judge referred his ruling to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for corrective "executive action".
Even though the judgment concluded
"the Act is not working as Parliament intended. Indeed, it could be having the opposite effect" AND
"the application brought by the plaintiff revealed a problem which needs to be addressed by the Executive", Brewer J "declined formal relief". A subsequent Minute, issued hours later, indicated the Judge was reconsidering his decision based upon an email he received from Crown Law that the Commissioner had finally given a decision.
It is now to Attorney General Chris Finlayson (pictured) to correct the systemic undermining of the public watchdog or attempt to quietly sweep the matter under the bureaucratic rug.
The court action which prompted the ruling concerned a complaint against Auckland District Court Judge David Harvey which the Commissioner had failed to address after more than a year. The Commissioner's defence was that he lacked the resources to conduct his statutory duties and was even required to work out of his old law office.
Judicial Conduct Commissioner and Judicial Conduct Panel Act 2004 requires "The Commissioner must acknowledge complaint and deal with it promptly", some judicial misconduct complaints have gone inactioned for as long as three years. The current backlog numbers over 200.
In the most recent fiscal reporting year, Commissioner Gascoigne took no action or dismissed 160 complaints and referred 4 complaints to the Head of Bench, where the chief judge is assumed to have secretly dealt with the judicial misconduct. No complaints were referred for investigation to a formal panel.