Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Bill Will II

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  • Andre,

    It seems as if he'll be let off but his reputation has been damaged slightly. He should be kicked to touch but those at the top of the legal fraternity are all old mates by the sounds so I fully expect a wet bus ticket to be the weapon of choice here.
    Justice Wilson was indebted to Mr Galbraith by up to $602,000. To normal mortals that's a lifetime's savings. But in the rarefied world of the bar that's a years' earnings probably.
    I think it's enough to cause a conflict of interest and it's just plain dodgy that he didn't declare it.
    The Attorney General can't hear the case. Judith Collins is assuming Attorney-General responsibilties in relation to the complaints against Justice Wilson as he and Chris Finlayson were both partners at the law firm Bell Gully.
    He'll be off scot free by the end of the week.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Thanks for the update.

    I have not seen too much about this in the media, possibly due to the confusing nature of the points being argued. Which is understandable

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Justice Wilson was indebted to Mr Galbraith by up to $602,000.

    Justice Wilson completely denies being indebted to Mr Galbraith. He argues:

    * they were joint shareholders in a company.
    * neither owed the other anything.
    * neither owed the company anything, rather:
    * the company owed them both money;
    * this were sometimes in differing amounts;
    * but this doesn't matter because the company had enough in the current account to repay them both if called upon.

    I think it's enough to cause a conflict of interest and it's just plain dodgy that he didn't declare it.

    He did call up Francis Cooke QC - the then lawyer for Saxmere - and told him about the joint holding. He didn't tell him about an indebtedness because he says there wasn't one. (the Supreme Court held this wasn't enough, but Justice Wilson says they got it factually wrong).

    Secondly, even if it's dodgy that it wasn't (properly) declared, that's not really what he's in trouble for. What he appears to be in trouble for is what happened at the Supreme Court.

    I have not seen too much about this in the media, possibly due to the confusing nature of the points being argued. Which is understandable.

    I thought Audrey Young, skiving off from the press gallery for the hearing, did a pretty good job.

    And my apologies for not going into the detail of the rest of the argument: Justice Wilson has also complained about a few other things, including the process the Judicial Conduct Commissioner adopted, which is argued to have lacked natural justice (in respect of one of the complaints, he says it wasn't put to him, and he has an answer to it). I thought the bit about the standard of misbehaviour needed was the more important bit.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    How much does a Supreme Court judge get paid? Something over $300k? One might think that that was enough for them not to need other "business interests" that might get them into difficulties?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    Earning over 300k would probably put you in a position where you invest it in other ways ; i.e. "business interests".
    If the business did indeed have enough funds to cover any debts to its principals then no one is beholden to anyone else.
    It looks like a monied litigant clutching at any means to get a case retried after losing so as to have another hearing in the hope of getting a different outcome.

    Since Apr 2010 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    Apparently he's on $410,000 a year. We're mainly paying that much so that we can employ trustworthy Supreme Court judges.
    We need for justice to be seen to be done. Even if everyone involved had the best intentions their actions seem badly conceived and arrogant - which disqualifies them from holding the positions they occupy.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    And then there is the fact that Attorney General Chris Finlayson is the object of an affidavid from wool grower Richard Bell which alleges that National's Kaikoura MP, Colin King, told him that Mr Finlayson would not act against Justice Wilson because they were friends.
    It seems a case of one law for the Judges and another for us.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    an affidavit from wool grower Richard Bell which alleges that National's Kaikoura MP, Colin King, told him that Mr Finlayson would not act against Justice Wilson because they were friends.

    Chris Finlayson isn't acting against Justice Wilson. Because the two were partners in law firm Bell Gully, he stepped aside from involvement in the matter the first time it got to his desk. Acting Attorney-General Judith Collins is taking the A-G role in this matter.

    It seems a case of one law for the Judges and another for us.

    It really doesn't. The Attorney-General's role is now pretty limited. The Judicial Conduct Commissioner makes the recommendation. He did. He recommended the appointment of a panel. Judith Collins did appoint a panel. Until that comes back to us her role is limited. Then she can accept or reject what it says.

    What has not happened to Justice Wilson that you would have had the system have happen to him?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    They shouldn't have made the guy a Judge in the first place - that would have been a win for "the system".

    I think Chris Finlayson could have acted sooner and that an MP is going around saying just that.

    There were huge arguments about whether or not to recommend investigating the whole saga within our top legal fraternity and without the press getting hold of this it may have never been progressed.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10637476&pnum=0

    The system hasn't done anything yet but hopefully those that run the system will be able to look past the fact that the man in question is a friend to many of them. We await the outcome with interest...

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I think Chris Finlayson could have acted sooner and that an MP is going around saying just that.

    1. Chris Finlayson shouldn't be acting at all.
    2. There is nothing he could have done. He can't remove a judge from office or investigate a judge, that's the job of, first, the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, and, second, any Judicial Conduct Panel.

    without the press getting hold of this it may have never been progressed.

    The matter has progressed because several people laid complaints with the Judicial Conduct Commissioner. When that happens, there is a process he is required to undertake: an initial check to see whether it is within his jurisdiction and then a review to see whether there is any cause for concern, with some options depending on the result of that investigation.

    That is why it has progressed. There is nothing the Attorney-General can do to hurry it up, and nothing he can do without that process being gone through.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • H-Bomb,

    This gives the flavour of the type of non-criminal misbehaviour that might get a judge removed from office: conducts manifesting an unfitness to continue in judicial office.

    I don't think it really does give the flavour as you have focussed on the more extreme examples (as has Wilson's counsel). The Canadian's have removed a judge (Judge Therrien) for misbehaviour for failing to make adequate disclosure, even though he had a strongly arguable legal basis for not making the disclosure.

    The question for New Zealand is should we require our judges to behave to the standard Canadian judges are required to, or whether we should have a more relaxed standard.

    I also think that the police should have been asked to investigate whether there was an attempt or a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by deliberately withholding information that led to the SC delivering an erroneous judgment requiring recall.

    This is particularly so, in light of Sir Ted's email trail showing that the decision to provide a percentage figure rather than a dollar figure was a deliberate choice and that that decision seems causative of the erroneous judgment.

    Also concerning is TT's claim that the percentage figure that Wilson gave to the SC said the account imbalance was 6%, but TT's calculation reveals that figure to be 20%.

    I note that in the Hesketh/Beattie case the police investigated the matter first. If we were in the US, the judge and lawyers would probably be before a Grand Jury.

    I make no categorical allegation of criminal offending but the circumstances do warrant criminal investigation as they go to the heart of the administration of justice.

    Oh, and that doesn't even touch on the most serious allegation by TT that Galbraith was 'tactically briefed' by the BNZ (to whom Rich Hill has a mortgage) once they knew Wilson would be sitting on the case. BNZ were in a position to know that Wilson and Galbraith were so close because they financed Wilson into the business.

    If that allegation can be substantiated, removal from the bench would be the least of Wilson's troubles.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    It still seems like an old boys (and old girls) network and that Justice Wilson didn't think he needed to announce his conflict of interest in the belief that his peers would understand because they trusted him as a friend as well as a colleague.
    You're the lawyer Graeme and I'm not but this whole thing seems to stink a bit.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 364 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Earning over 300k would probably put you in a position where you invest it in other ways ; i.e. "business interests".

    They would seem to be as good a candidate for blind trusts as MPs, particularly in the area of corporate cases.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    It still seems like an old boys (and old girls) network and that Justice Wilson didn't think he needed to announce his conflict of interest in the belief that his peers would understand because they trusted him as a friend as well as a colleague.

    Conflicts of interest tend to arise between judges and the parties to the proceeedings, not between judges and counsel. It is generally agreed that a much higher level of connectedness is permitted between judges and the lawyers appearing before them than between judges and the parties appearing before them.

    I don't think it really does give the flavour as you have focussed on the more extreme examples (as has Wilson's counsel). The Canadian's have removed a judge (Judge Therrien) for misbehaviour for failing to make adequate disclosure, even though he had a strongly arguable legal basis for not making the disclosure.

    One of the problems you get by not hearing all the arguments :-) Certainly Carruthers did argue that the Canadian approach was basically in line with the Australian one. I do note that Judge Therrien's disclosure failure was not with respect to a case, but in his application to be a judge (the arguable bit being that the conviction he didn't disclose had been expunged/clean-slated).

    I note that in the Hesketh/Beattie case the police investigated the matter first. If we were in the US, the judge and lawyers would probably be before a Grand Jury.

    I make no categorical allegation of criminal offending but the circumstances do warrant criminal investigation as they go to the heart of the administration of justice.

    To investigate a charge of what? In all cases where criminal offending is suspected the police or the Serious Fraud Office or whoever should investigate first and seek criminal charges if they can be reasonably laid. That's clearly recognised in our legislative scheme - one shortcut to the Judicial Conduct process is that following a conviction, the Attorney-General can act without needing to set up a Panel. But I don't believe I have seen anything here that even suggests a criminal investigation might be warranted.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Term deposits, government bonds, maybe tracker funds are ways to maintain ones wealth without conflicts of interest. Many ordinary jobs forbid one from having side-businesses, you know.

    Surely when someone is employed by the people in a prestigious and lucrative position we're entitled to full attention.

    Off topic, what about the former Head Defence Scientist? My guess is that his CV simply listed his military service and sporting interests, and he put the gloss on about being James Bond verbally, in interview.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    what about the former Head Defence Scientist? My guess is that his CV simply listed his military service and sporting interests, and he put the gloss on about being James Bond verbally, in interview.

    And my guess with Mary-Anne Thompson was that some HR/PR type person had prepared an information sheet and had misunderstood studied for doctorate at LSE in her CV as has a doctorate and announced her to the world as Dr Thompson, which, being too embarrassed to correct, she ultimately informally adopted. I was wrong about that, so who knows?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • H-Bomb,

    I do note that Judge Therrien's disclosure failure was not with respect to a case, but in his application to be a judge (the arguable bit being that the conviction he didn't disclose had been expunged/clean-slated).

    Yes, but I think that makes it less serious because the Therrien non-disclosure did not cause justice to miscarry the way the Wilson non-disclosure did in Saxmere 1. Also, Therrien had a much stronger case than Wilson to say disclosure was not required because the clean slating provision is actually a statutory pardon and also because of the constitutional provision that says no person shall be denied employment by virtue of a conviction alone (the court holding that a judge was not 'employed' but 'appointed').

    I think Wilson would be for the high jump in Canada (and will be here too), and some investigative body should be running the ruler over the cabal of QCs embroiled in this mess.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Victoria Beck,

    What's the bet that it will all come out in the wash and the outcome will be to maintain institutional respectability, given the CJ is involved too? Power wins out. There's the journo wife of the QC Curruthers doing great PR, using the "Herald", NZ's powerful organ, to manipulate our thinking as to the "honourable" judge.

    Since Sep 2007 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    what about the former Head Defence Scientist? My guess is that his CV simply listed his military service and sporting interests, and he put the gloss on about being James Bond verbally, in interview.

    One thing that doesn't seem to have been spelled out to (or possibly by) the media is that security vetting isn't meant to be a check of employment references. If a person lies in their CV, the SIS may not even see the offending document never mind investigate the claims. That's meant to be the role of whoever handles the recruitment.

    Security vetting isn't a test of "Can they do the job?" it's a test of "Can we trust them with secrets?" You don't have to be a saint to get a clearance, you just have to convince the SIS that you're not likely to be vulnerable to pressure to improperly disclose classified information - the whole point of the warts-and-all investigation is to make sure that your dirty laundry is known to your employer so that it can't be used to blackmail you. While it sounds like Wilce probably wasn't a great choice as head of Defence Tech in terms of his work history, that doesn't mean that he's a security risk. If he provided a verifable history going back 10 years, with referees of an acceptable quality to support his character (note: character, not claims of employment prowess), that'll get him past a vetting.

    From what I've read, the claims relate to activities 20-plus years ago. By default the SIS look 10 years into your past for a vetting, going futher only if a matter of concern is found that needs more investigation. Concern comes from dubious acquaintances or habits, money problems, or travel to countries of ill-repute. It doesn't come from things you purport in the employment process that relate to what you supposedly did 20-plus years ago.

    If Wilce got the job on the basis of puffed-up claims, shame on Momentum. But if everything relevant to his vetting checks out there's no corresponding shame on the SIS.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    More competence on display.

    Now NZPA sources have revealed the company behind Mr Wilce's recruitment - Momentum Consulting - also selected an unqualified woman to work as an accountant for a Wellington business group.

    ...

    The woman has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Security vetting isn't a test of "Can they do the job?" it's a test of "Can we trust them with secrets?" You don't have to be a saint to get a clearance,

    The fact is that to be able to keep secrets you sometimes have to lie. Maybe they thought his bullshit was a good thing.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    The fact is that to be able to keep secrets you sometimes have to lie. Maybe they thought his bullshit was a good thing.

    Steve, that's assuming it was something of which the SIS were even aware. I'd say it's about 50:50 as to whether or not that's the case, and the officer running the vetting may have decided that whatever example was presented was irrelevant. It's a little unfortunate that we'll probably never be allowed to know the specifics of what transpired, but there's a fair bit of misunderstanding about just what security vetting actually investigates.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

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