Saturday, April 20, 2024

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Judges should not be above criticism

Let's talk about judges for a minute. 

So, the Law Society today has come out in defence of judges and in the face of all the criticism that they've been copping lately. The Law Society has asked that we please stop criticising the judges. It's in an opinion piece written by Fraser Barton, who is the president of the Law Society. He says the way that we're talking about the judiciary and their decisions might be harmful to this important institution. He says we are wrong to accuse especially the Supreme Court of Judicial activism. And, if we carry on the way that we are, it might end up with people losing confidence in the judiciary, which means that they won't trust the courts to look after them. 

Now, in a nutshell, I think what Fraser is arguing is that it is absolutely fine to criticise judges decisions, but we're not ok to criticise the judges themselves - including by using phrases like activist judges. 

Look, as a general rule, I think Fraser's got a point here, right? 

You should always try to play the ball and not the man, but sometimes the man is the problem, right? Some judges are going to be great and some are just going to be rubbish and that's how it is in any profession. And it is ok to say that person there is rubbish at their job and equally some judges will follow the rules and some judges will push the hell out of the boundaries.  

Some judges will do that consistently. 

They are called activist judges. 

I think it's also ok to point that out... otherwise, what are you supposed to do? Pretend it's not happening?  

Just look at every decision coming from a particular judge, say that decision's a bit dodgy, that decision is a bit dodgy, and that decision is a bit dodgy... but not point out that they're all coming from exactly the same judge and not point out that they're all coming from exactly the same court. 

For example, the Supreme Court - the Supreme Court is the problem right now. 

The Supreme Court is a very, very serious concern to a lot of commentators who are writing opinion pieces about this. So, basically in a nutshell, what they're doing is they're making law and they're introducing Tikanga Māori into existing law, which is a discussion for another day about how weird and wild that is. But it's actually the job of parliament to be making law. Not so much the Supreme Court judges who are not above criticism, right? 

We criticise absolutely everybody - we criticise the police, we criticise the hell out of the MP’s, we criticise each other in the media, criticise the public servants, we get criticised.  

That's healthy, that's how it should be. 

Otherwise, it's just a free for all, isn't it? 

What is unhealthy is pretending that there's a group of people who are so special that they are somehow above criticism. They are not above criticism, not when they're actively changing the laws in the country, which is not their job. 

They are absolutely 100 percent open to being criticised.

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show HERE - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Spot on.
The SC has gone way beyond its mandate. Parlaiment must rein it in - urgently .

EP said...

Very well said thank you Heather. I completely agree with you. Parliament must put these unlawful people in their place.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree!

orowhana said...

We need to reinstate access to the Privy Council. NOW!

Anonymous said...

Equally likely methinks, that people will lose confidence in judges if they cannot be criticised. The judges can judge but not be judged? The judges are not accountable?
Phew, this is getting pretty medieval.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, that is so. But now we have the likes of National, in their Fast-track Approvals Bill, introducing the likes of understandings in Tikanga and Matauranga Maori. As many claim, National is Labour Lite, and the PM's latest utterances are bordering on, if not activism, then certainly wokeism that he really doesn't have a mandate for. It's certainly not what the voters thought they were getting. Between the Nats and the Courts, we have a problem. Peters and Seymour really have their work cut out in reining them in.

Fred H. said...

Fraser Barton goes a very long way in demonstrating why certain judges need not only to be criticised but sacked !

Fred H. said...

I would like to see Seymour and Peters threaten to withdraw from the Coalition unless Luxon repeals all race-based legislation. If it causes another General Election, so be it --- National will be the loser and we could end up with a government of people with guts and spines unlike this miserable effort from Luxon and his controllers in the National Party. Such a threat may lead to someone else stepping up to be a real Leader.

Basil Walker said...

The NZ Public have to criticise the High Court for the shenanigans being determined by the judges in the Seabed and Foreshore applications.
The decisions are a vertical finger to parliament by the judges and collusion with maori interests against the NZ Parliament and by association the nation .
The judges are willfully committing an injustice against the public right to the coastal foreshore and adjoining ocean.
Parliament has to attend to the malaise before apartheid is fully embedded into NZ culture.

Anonymous said...

If National's ambivalence does not improve, there could be another election where ACT and NZF will get much greater support to form a proper majority centre right government

Robert Arthur said...

Steady on HdPA. Much more like this and you will have restored public confidence in the msm.

Anonymous said...

Quite right to say critcism will lead to lack of confidence. But criticism is because judges have stepped out of line from interpreting law to making law via extremist decisions. The making of law is exclusively parliaments domain. If judges want to get into that game, they should be appointed for 3 year term and reappointed based on the will of the people.

Anonymous said...

How could one have confidence in someone who sees themselves as being above criticism? They lost my confidence a long time ago.