COURT

Judges essential, not just 'nice to have'

Friday 11 May 2012, 11:56AM
By Labour Party
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Judges don’t seem to believe Attorney General Chris Finlayson when he seeks to minimise suggestions that there are plans not to replace retiring Judges, or to relieve Judges with other responsibilities, says Charles Chauvel.

“The Ministry of Justice seems to have come up with the idea that there are 23 too many Judges, and that this should be dealt with via a policy of attrition.

“In a letter to Chris Finlayson, dated 2 May 2012, Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue demonstrates that this analysis is incorrect and, if adopted will lead to further delays in the justice system.

“In Parliament today, Chris Finlayson would not adopt or disavow the Ministry’s analysis and the National Party refused to allow the letter to be tabled.

“It already takes over a year to get a trial in a District Court in Auckland,” Charles Chauvel said.  “And if the Government doesn’t talk to the Judges about making sure there are enough of them to do the job required, delays like that will get a lot worse.

“The Ministry’s view has never been discussed with the Judges. It contains fundamental mistakes, like the number of sitting hours available to each Judge every year, and the numbers of Judges unavailable to sit full time because they have other duties, like Parole Board work and chairing or sitting on other courts and tribunals.

“Judges are resourced by the taxpayer and have a responsibility to work efficiently.  But they are not public servants who can be directed to operate in a particular way.  Both the practical reality, and the constitutional position, is that any changes to the operation of the bench need to be the product of discussion and negotiation with the Judges themselves.

“Any other approach is inappropriate and likely to be counterproductive.

“We all want an efficient court system that delivers prompt and effective justice.  But this will come only from a cooperative relationship between the Government and the Judiciary, rather than one that seeks to swing the resourcing axe,” Charles Chauvel said.