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    If civilisation is the progress toward a society of privacy, the New Zealand judiciary has no doubt reached its zenith.

    This was again confirmed this week when Attorney General Chris Finlayson (picutred) declared taxpayer-funded sojourns for the partners of our 206 judges is nobody's business.

    Weighing in on the Judiciary playing toad with a Dominion Post request for how much the citizenry were financially supporting judges' spouses, Finlayson said through his publicist, "Unlike elected representatives, there is no public interest, only a prurient interest, in publishing the minutiae of judge's expenses. It is an unwarranted intrusion into judges' privacy."

    The comment was recorded in a DomPost article this week that reported $500,000 in taxpayer funded travel expenses was paid for judges spouses over the last three years. Over the same period, $18 million was paid for judges' travel.

    But let not our delight at understanding a glimpse of an obscure system lead us to believe in the truth of what it demonstrates. This third of our government is so private that statutes expressly passed to make government more accountable and transparent - i.e., the Public Records Act 2005, the Official Information Act 1982 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 - do not apply to judges.

    Increasingly, even court judgments are kept secret; with one case currently before the Supreme Court ( Rabson v Croad) challenging the power of the Court of Appeal to dispense with applications for judicial recusal by way of unrecorded and unauthored minutes.

    Few, if any, politicians yield the power of a New Zealand judge. And the public have no clue how these lawyers are appointed. Moreover, the old joke that you know a lawyer is lying because their lips are moving is transplanted by the dogma that NZ judges are never deceptive and do their best work in secret in order to protect others' privacy.

    This Orwellian view is aided by an enforceable code that exposing judicial misconduct can get a lawyer disbarred for bringing the judiciary into disrepute. In a land which champions the underdog, this shooting-of-the-messenger is unique - and more than a little perplexing.

    Not for Finlayson though. As Attorney General, Finlayson appoints the judges. He will likely appoint 4 of the 5 Supreme Court judges before next election and - few recall - he actively and unsuccessfully defended his mate Bill Wilson, who ultimately resigned in disgrace from the Supreme Court in 2010 when his conflicts of interest could no longer be concealed. It is fair comment Finlayson will likely never admit witnessing a judicial misdeed.

    Finlayson is dyed-in-the-wool loyal to a court system which his master has advocated is key to gaining more foreign investment. This explains why Finlayson went rabid when New Zealand's top equity lawyer, Tony Molloy QC, spoke candidly earlier this year about being embarrassed at international forums over the poor quality of judicial decisions in New Zealand. Loyal as he is to a diseased judiciary, and contrary to his public protestations, Finlayson could not help but to phone Dr Molloy to tell him he privately agreed with him.

    Few fear Finlayson may ultimately suffer the same (unexpected) fate as his mate Bill Wilson. Since the Wilson conflict of interest debacle he has been on fire brigade tending to judicial conflicts which - in the case of Geoffrey Venning and Hugh Williams - were worthy of the judges privately bragging about. He has not lost his focus and the judiciary will likely not forget his unbridled loyalty. He has banked his professional legacy on the "she'll be right" Kiwi apathy and shows no sign of relenting his attacks as 'prurient' the occasion public interest in what lurks behind the black robes.


    • flimflam
      flimflam commented
      Editing a comment
      I thought that the tax payer had a legal right to see where their money goes. Is this so? If so perhaps these judges and finlinson see themselves as something asside of the nz public. A higher being for example, beyond reproach. Is this how we are served by these people.

      Remember with a criminal record you can't go and live in Australia so as more people leave nz who are we left with? Judges and people who can't leave. Are they the champions of industry who will turn our countries lack of fortune around? Heck no, the striving, hard working, thinking business folks have left or are leaving. Many are fed up with the court system, judiciary arrogance, self policing, self serving government departments and their officers, many of whom would be unemployable in the real world of commerce. We are pathetic We are only 4 million people. Still that number is reducing by 1000 a week as they leave.
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