LEGAL

Vince Siemer Vince Siemer CREDIT: New Zealand Justice Forum

Watchdog nips lobbying judges

Wednesday 10 April 2013, 3:31PM
By New Zealand Justice Forum
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Judges thorn and kiwisfirst.co.nz publisher Vince Siemer has filed a complaint with the Office of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner against eight top judges for lobbying the Justice and Electoral Select Committee of Parliament to prevent passage of the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.  It is alleged the judges violated the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct which state it is “inappropriate” for judges to lobby Parliament, as well as in conflict with the Ministry of Justice’s publicly-stated Constitutional position regarding the separation of powers.

The Bill was put forth by Green List MP Dr Kennedy Graham following Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson’s 2010 resignation over an undisclosed financial indebtedness to counsel who appeared before him when on the Court of Appeal.  The proposed legislation would require judges publicly register their financial interests to help prevent similar cases occurring of judges ruling in matters where they have a vested interest.

The judges who are subject of the complaint, which include the heads of every court in New Zealand, have submitted to the Select Committee that while the Bill may be good law internationally, “the relatively small size of the New Zealand legal community and the nature of judicial appointment processes” presumably make such law unnecessary in the prevention of judicial corruption here. 

The judges argue “there are already mechanisms for dealing with conflicts of interest on the part of judges”, and name the ‘Guidelines for Judicial Conduct’ as one such mechanism.  In his complaint, Siemer points out that clause 25 of the Guidelines states that lobbying of Parliament by judges is inappropriate, thereby demonstrating how hypocritical the judges are in claiming these Guidelines provide any value in restraining judges’ inappropriate conduct.