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  • Judicial Conduct Commissioner rules Judge exceeded authority

    Complaints have been upheld against District Court Judge David McNaughton for ordering journalists reporting on Kim Dotcom’s first court appearances , to leave the court. One of the journalists was from the National Business Review, the other from the Herald on Sunday.

    In what is believed to be an unprecedented finding, Judicial Conduct Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne has referred complaints from two journalists about the judge to Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, for her attention.
    This means the journalists’ complaints are now a matter for “internaladministration” by Chief Judge Doogue and they cannot expect to be told of any outcome. Sir David says a result of his referral of the complaints to Chief District Court Judge Doogue could be a reinforcement, in the minds of Judges, of the significance of the courts being open to the media and the public generally – except where an explicitly statutory exception shouldprevail”.

    In his formal finding, Sir David says he came to the view Judge McNaughton’s behaviour was “somewhat peremptory and lacking in tolerance”.While Sir David made allowance for it being an unusual and highly charged situation, he said, if anything, “that might be thought to require a greater level of tolerance”.

    Sir David referred to the official Guidelines for Judicial Conduct which state judges should conduct themselves with courtesy to all and “punctuality, patience and tolerance are qualities the judge should apply”.
    “Overall, I have concluded that the Judge’s behaviour in these circumstances was significantly less courteous, patient and tolerant than may reasonably have been expected of a Judge,”

    Sir David said none of the nine circumstances in which he must dismiss a complaint applied.
    Sir David says there was no basis on which he could recommend to the Attorney-General that a Judicial Conduct Panel be appointed (as happened the complaint against former Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson) because Judge McNaughton’s conduct did not warrant such an inquiry.

    In January, when Mr Dotcom and three co-accused business associates appeared in North Shore district court, after an armed police dawn raid, Judge McNaughton ordered media from the court, but allowed the public to remain while other matters were being dealt with. A National Business Review journalist and a Herald on Sunday journalist complained to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner essentially on similar grounds that Judge McNaughton overreacted badly in ordering media out of the court.

    In his response to the complaints, Judge McNaughton said he “requested” the media to leave. But the journalists were adamant he made a judicial order, which was enforced by court security staff and police.
    Because the views of the journalists and the Judge were significantly divergent, Sir David spoke to some lawyers who were present in court at the relevant times.
    While they sympathised with the courtroom situation the judge found, some stated that Judge McNaughton over-stepped the mark in dealing with things in a peremptory fashion and should have explained his position more carefully.

    (credit: Post based on paid content licenced by NBR)
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Shannon's Avatar
      Shannon -
      I have a current complaint in about the actions of this Judge. I believe he should not be allowed to Judge anything! He is corrupt and has no respect for the guidlines and laws he is meant to be following.
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