Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: A grand jury?

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    Clinton was "tried" by the legislature rather than the judiciary, who can hardly be expected to give a fair trial to a political opponent.

    In America, where judges are often elected, or appointed along political lines, this is also sometimes true of the judiciary.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Isn't parliament the highest court in NZ in some circumstances? Or am I making that up.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The idea that Parliament is the "highest court in the land" comes from the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy - if the Government ever loses is Court - even if it loses it the Supreme Court - it can get Parliament to pass a law over-ruling the decision.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2996 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    The US also considers the courts as an equal part of the "separation of powers" - theoretically the executive (president and cabinet), the congress (house and senate) and the judiciary (in particular the supreme court) are independent - but check each other through the ability of the congress to impeach, the president to veto, the supreme court to overturn laws, etc our system is a bit more messy since we didn't get a fresh start in the 1700s

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Plus, I note our Parliament seems to handle "no confidence" motions easily enough...

    The US doesn't have no-confidence motions of course, because the executive doesn't have to retain the confidence of the legislature. In some ways the Clinton trial was a proxy for a no-confidence motion, though with the Republicans holding less than 2/3 of the Senate, it was always a bit of a sham.

    If an NZ Prime Minister were to be accused (genuinely) of a crime, they would be tried through the normal court process. If convicted of a crime carrying a sentence over 2 years, they would be expelled from Parliament and hence would no longer be PM (although one would expect their party to have ditched them long before this).

    our system is a bit more messy since we didn't get a fresh start in the 1700s

    Or a bit more refined because we aren't stuck with the way things were done in 1800.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4421 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    Or a bit more refined because we aren't stuck with the way things were done in 1800

    Indeed, you will hear many Americans complain that their ossified constitution is often more of a hindrance than a help. There are some mighty Byzantine things done in the US purely because they are easier than ammending the constitution.

    I suppose you could make a similar complaint wrt the Treaty, but that probably won't become clear for another couple of hundred years after we sewed it into so much of our legislation . . .

    I think that one of the ways you can now constrain an administration is to arrange your constitutional affairs such that they must agree with various international statutes, explicitly. Sort of like how things work here in the EU wrt things like European human rights or working time laws/directives. Such things are of course anathema to the US but in a country like NZ with a fairly flat constitutional system (unicameral parliament) this would be useful.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Rich I equally agree with you too - the one thing the americans got to do was throw everything away and try to craft a working whole from scratch - but they made it all so stable they sort of got stuck there.

    The problem is that you want a constitutional arrangement that you can change ... but not easily ... too hard and you ossify, to easy and you're ripe for abuse - it's delicate balancing act

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Though often as much of a problem (IMHO) is their crazy holding onto bits of it as if they're stuck in stone.

    Personally I think America would get safer if they made some changes to the 2nd amendment that, so people would stop raving on about their right to conduct world war 3 with the contents of their armoury.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

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