Saturday, December 4

Chief Justice and Justice Young acted appropriately in ‘Moana’ case – commissioner

The Commissioner of Judicial Conduct dismissed a complaint that the country’s two highest-ranking judges compromised judicial independence by becoming involved in a case that is being supervised by a Family Court judge.

Tony ellis

Tony Ellis.
Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

Human rights attorney Tony Ellis filed the complaint earlier this month after Commissioner Alan Ritchie dismissed an earlier complaint about Chief Family Court Judge Jackie Moran and Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu, who contacted Judge Peter Callinicos regarding the ‘Moana’ case while it was still ongoing. I’m listening.

Ellis’s second complaint against Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann and Justice William Young alleged that they did not reveal to Justice Callinicos’s attorneys that they had been involved in behind-the-scenes discussions and Justice Young had drawn his own conclusions about the behavior of the Judge Callinicos without giving him an explanation. opportunity to comment.

Ellis also asked Ritchie to excuse himself from hearing his new complaint because his decision to refer his previous complaint to Judge Winklemann “irrevocably compromised” his independence.

In a decision letter sent to Ellis today, seen by RNZ, Ritchie said he found no reason to act on his complaint. It was also “entirely appropriate” for him to examine the complaint, as he saw no reason to recuse himself.

Ritchie said he wrote to the Chief Justice and Justice Young notifying them of Ellis’s complaint. “I said that I was not seeking any response from them in terms of section 15 (2), but that they were free to comment if they wished. I have not heard from them.”

The Chief Justice and Justice Young acted appropriately as their roles required, Ritchie wrote.

“In considering this complaint, I have noted (as required by the Superior Courts Act 2016) the role of the Chief Justice as the head of New Zealand’s judiciary and have noted that Justice Young, in his letter of 3 September 2021, he said was at the request of the Chief Justice that he provided advice and assistance to the Chief Judge of the District Court and the Chief Judge of the Family Court. “

The judicial guidelines say that judges have “opportunities to be aware of the conduct of their judicial colleagues. This may involve counseling, making inquiries of colleagues, or reporting to the Chief Justice or the Chief Justice,” Ritchie wrote.

He also dismissed Ellis’s request to forward his complaint to the Attorney General with a view to forming a Judicial Conduct Panel to further investigate the matter. “I accept that this result will not satisfy them, but I do not believe that the Law provides me with any other reasonable option.”

Ritchie also seemed to have a dig into the comments, reportedly, by Judge Callinicos, appearing in Ellis’s complaint, that he [Ritchie] he was to blame for “the dumping of this one-sided garbage into the public domain.”

“I refer again to the duty of confidentiality imposed on me by section 19. My decision of September 29, 2021 was clearly marked as private and confidential. I can only guess who the media informant may have been,” Ritchie wrote.

Ellis said he wasn’t “in the least bit surprised” by Ritchie’s response. Ellis said in his opinion that there were “structural deficiencies” in the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s Act, which meant that it was “not an effective watchdog.”

A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Justice confirmed that the Chief Justice had received the decision of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner today. The issues referred to the Chief Justice in the Commissioner’s Sept. 29 decision remain under consideration, they said.

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