Latest Supreme Court decision bad news for Chief Justice

The Chief Justice’s last, best hope to avoid having to host a dinner with the profession has been dashed.  Options to get out of hosting an ADLS dinner at the Northern Club on 13 March 2020 are now severely limited following the Supreme Court’s reasons in Minister of Justice v Kim [2020] NZSC 18.

Today’s decision (from a panel that did not include the Chief Justice) held that extrajudicial engagements do not, in and of themselves, affect a judge’s ability to sit.  That had the effect of confirming that there is no legal reason that would prevent the Chief Justice having to pretend to enjoy socialising with 200 people whose idea of a good time is dinner at the Northern Club.

The Supreme Court’s decision was limited to whether appointment under the Inquiries Act 2013 affects judicial independence in the context of William Young J’s appointment to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on the Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019 and Arnold J’s appointment to the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and Related Matters.  The decision contained no helpful obiter observations about whether punishing public dinners on a Friday night might also affect judicial independence, despite “[b]oth the Senior Courts Act and the Inquiries Act [being] silent on the point” as well (Kim at [30]).   Nor did it make any comment on the latent injustice of having to suffer through these sorts of dinners in arm’s reach of sobriety for the sake of public perception.

The Supreme Court confirmed the Saxmere test for apparent bias continues to apply, however bloodstock agents confirmed that, due to new AML regulations, a purchase of a share in a racehorse was unlikely to be able to be effected before 6.30pm on Friday 13 March 2020.  Efforts by clerks late Thursday to locate an extant application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court that somehow involved either the Northern Club or ADLS proved unsuccessful also.

The Chief Justice’s speech for the dinner currently consists of an entry in her phone’s Notes app that records it wasn’t until her fourth year of being a partner in a law firm that the Northern Club started admitting women as members.

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