The question of what might have been is a hot topic among the legal fraternity when it comes to Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson resigning in disgrace last week. Could he have weathered the storm? Was justice denied when his resignation put a halt on the inquiry into his judicial conduct?
It is a moot point now that Wilson has received a $1.0 million golden parachute from the NZ taxpayers to resign.
Yet the drama has no appearance of abating, and increasingly Wilson is looking like the pitiful Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman – as evidenced by his two interviews in the Herald on Sunday. If only the world could see how great and honourable he sees himself.
In the two full page-dominating interviews, the variously smiling and smug defrocked judge professes to be the martyr. The reader is left unaware that $475,000 of Wilson’s taxpayer payout went to the lawyer-husband of the reporter doing both interviews. That lawyer, Colin Carruthers QC, was Wilson’s counsel for 4 ½ months.
During that time Carruthers spent more time doing media interviews professing the judge’s innocence than he spent in court. Nonetheless his wife chose to paint the judge as left twisting in the wind, abandoned by those who should have spoken up for him. One of those is Acting Attorney General Judith Collins, of whom Wilson angrily laments “she never spoke up for me, and that is her role because a judge can’t speak for him or herself”.
Ms Collins is “acting” A-G because the actual A-G, Chris Finlayson, made submissions on behalf of the New Zealand government to the Supreme Court defending Wilson’s reckless conflicts. Finlayson was the ex-judge’s junior counsel at Bell Gully. Finlayson also told fellow MP Colin King that he would never abandon his friend and mentor Wilson.
Poor Willy was defiant when addressing why he failed to disqualify himself before ruling for his business partner in one appeal and the bank he owed over a million dollars to on floating terms in the other: “Let’s be absolutely clear. What is conflict of interest? It is when you have an interest in the outcome of the case.”
Damn it; everyone knew the Judge was neither the plaintiff nor the defendant in the case he was deciding. Why was he persecuted so?
The ex-judge did confirm what kiwisfirst has been reporting for many months, but the mainstream media has roundly ignored. If Wilson had a conflict of interest, so too did the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In fact, kiwisfirst has reported repeatedly that Justice Sian Elias’ conflict was greater than Wilson’s in congregate.
It was noted that the Supreme Court even refused to rule on Section 4 (2a) of the Judicature Act (restricting judges’ commercial endeavours) in Saxmere v Disco because CJ Elias was perhaps the most egregious violator of one of the few laws in New Zealand which govern judicial conduct.
When you consider this, Wilson has a right to be mad. But not nearly so much as the New Zealand public, who are oblivious to the faint hissing sound which occurs when businesses pull out of New Zealand because they know they cannot trust the old boy judges here to give them a fair shake.