Saturday, 25 June 2011

NZ Judges are basically a bunch self obsessed of Inbreeds!


Suppose you awoke one day to find that by executive decree all but a couple of the 122 Members of Parliament were to be white Anglican, horse breeding lawyers who mix in the same tight social circles and whose priority is security of their possessions. If after they met the new Members passed a multitude of laws stating immigration is restricted to Europe and North America, horse breeders are exempt from paying taxes, the Northern Club is granted exclusive use of Albert Park for a new party facility and carpark and theft of property is now punishable by death, would this amount to a conspiracy on its face?

The answer is "No". It is human nature for people to make decisions which are rooted in self-interest. They do not need to collude to promote interests they share. The actions might further be considered egalitarian if the members were a mirror image of New Zealand and their actions were reflective of the mores of society. That non-horse breeders are left to pick up the tax burden, Albert Park users no longer have that enjoyment and NZ citizens from South America and Asia cannot have family members join them becomes merely a casualty of the balancing exercise where societal interests conflict.

The problem in a democratic and just society of course is if the decision making process appears arbitrary, is not transparent, subverts societal mores and benefits a privileged few at the expense of society on the whole.

It is inconceivable a democratic nation as diverse as New Zealand would accept the reins of power being vested in this parochial oligarchy. What few realise is that this has become the adopted model for the judicial branch of government since the loss of the Privy Council as the final appellate court in 2004. There is little diversity among New Zealand High Court judges, which includes Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges. Only three were born off shore (all England) and two are Maori, although you could not tell by looking at them. If they all look like family, it is because they largely are. There are many cousins and even a husband and wife (Simon and Ellen France). The great majority are former Crown lawyers or children of past judges. It is not a conspiracy that they have a hard time recognizing white collar crime and the civil rights of individuals considering their privileged backgrounds and cloistered environs. If the Chief Justice has substantial shares in the state carrier, and the state carrier has been particularly kind in providing service and holidays to just a few of her judicial colleagues, it does not require a conspiracy for the appellate court to uphold a court verdict which had seemed a straightforward breach of antitrust laws. That the presiding judge alone controls the official record of what occurred helps to keeps things tidy.

That this is a huge problem for New Zealand was evident in the snickers from the business community to the announcement of PM John Key's futile dream that New Zealand become a financial hub along the line of Singapore. Even if the public are shielded by the shroud of secrecy which pervades many NZ court proceedings, business people with money to invest make it their objective to look at the economic and legal playing field. If the laws are found to not be equitably applied, investors want to at least know what the bribing regime is for judges. The problem for New Zealand is that while businesspeople see judicial decisions inconsistent with law and fact, they are told corruption of judges does not exist. They are left bewildered when a distinguished judge such as Susan Glazebrook on the Court of Appeal states from the bench she is not interested in whether a party has submitted fraudulent documents to the Court, refuses to look at the evidence this is so, relies upon the deceptive documents in support of the reserved judgment, then suppresses the court record.

Everyone now knows that after the Privy Council roundly chastised the New Zealand Court of Appeal for systemic legal abuses in Taito v R, Attorney General of the day Margaret Wilson led a coup to shoot the messenger and appoint the very Court of Appeal judges who were guilty of a homegrown brand of selective lawlessness to New Zealand's new court of last resort. What little judicial diversity - and redress - New Zealand offered before effectively evaporated.

One upshot of this incestuous consolidation of judicial power is that, in contrast to the United States or other Commonwealth countries, there is little realistic expectation that litigants in New Zealand will get an arm's length and fairer legal shake at the appellate court. Aside from appointing judges from a small social subsection in this land of 4 million people, the revolving door nature of the appellate court routinely has judges from the High Court sitting in judgment on the Court of Appeal and judges on the Supreme Court reviewing appeals of decisions they made when on the Court of Appeal.

Public ignorance of the nation's judges who exercise unbridled power is by design. The obscure selection process extends to the austere announcements of each appointment, ordinarily little more than a 100 word blip of tantalizing PR put out by the Attorney General. Court proceedings themselves are often black holes of information. Unless our desire to know who these people are and what they are doing forces a modicum of transparency, we have not learned the lessons of history.

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