LETTERS REVEAL FLAW & ORDER
JUDGE MATCH LAID BARE
FORMER attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie rejected advice from the state’s top judges on who to appoint to a prestigious Court of Appeal position.
Leaked letters reveal all appeal judges apart from president Margaret McMurdo last year nominated her husband Justice Philip McMurdo to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court.
Justice Margaret McMurdo separately wrote to Mr Bleijie to note her colleagues had put her husband forward and add she had “no objection” to his appointment.
Mr Bleijie rejected the advice and in consultation with former chief justice Tim Carmody, appointed Justice Anthe Philippides, who had 14 years’ experience on the Supreme Court and was lauded as a “fine and eminent” choice.
The letters also reveal that amid the breakdown in relations between the judiciary and Newman government, Mr Bleijie and Justice Margaret McMurdo could not agree to meet or talk on the phone in the lead-up to the appointment.
“Unfortunately, I understand that you have no time available this year to meet to discuss the matter with me,” Justice McMurdo writes in one letter last November.
Mr Bleijie fired back in a December letter that he had repeatedly called her office and had been told she would not talk to him on the phone.
The letters, which have emerged as Labor prepares to announce the state’s next chief justice, were written ahead of the retirement of appeal judge John Muir.
Court of Appeal judge Catherine Holmes wrote to Mr Bleijie about the issue on behalf of all ap- peal judges except t Justice Margaret t McMurdo on No- vember 25.
“Our unani- mous view is that t the most suitable, although not the only suitable, can- didate for appointment is Philip McMurdo J of thee Trial Division,” she wrote.t
Justice Holmes added: “Obviously, the President has had no part in our decision to advance Philip McMurdo J’s name but we understand his appointment to the Court would create no administrative difficulty; arrangements could readily be made to ensure they were not listed to sit together.”
Justice Margaret McMurdo wrote separately to Mr Bleijie three days later, noting her colleagues had nominated her husband as a “possible appointee”.
“On the last occasion we discussed the appointment of a Court of Appeal judge, I explained that, although Philip McMurdo J was the preferred appointee of the other judges of appeal, I personally was not putting forward his name and could not discuss the merits of such an appointment,” she wrote.
“If you wished to consider it, I suggested you contact (Court of Appeal judges) Holmes JA or Muir JA.”
Supreme Court judge Letter from Justice Catherine Holmes to Jarrod Bleijie I am writing on behalf of the judges of the Court of Appeal … Our unanimous view is that the most suitable, although not the only suitable, candidate for appointment is Philip McMurdo J of the Trial Division … the President has had no part in our decision to advance Philip McMurdo J’s name but we understand his appointment to the Court would create no administrative difficultyy Yours sincerely,y,
Justice Catherin Catherine H Holmesl Letter from Justice Margaret McMurdo to Jarrod Bleijie Unfortunately, I understand that you have
no time available this year to meet to discuss the
matter with me. For that reason, I confidentially provide
you with my view … On the last occasion we discussed
the appointment of a Court of Appeal judge,
I explained that, although Philip McMurdo J was the
preferred appointee of the other judges of appeal,
I personally was not putting forward his name and could
not discuss the merits of such an appointment.
If you wished to consider it, I suggested you contact
Holmes JA or Muir JA … YoursYo urs sincerely,
Justice Margaret McMurdo
Holmes Bleijie t to Justice Catherine Letter from Jarrod occasions, I
indicated on many Ultimately, as I have
of making appointments am guided by the principle
are many fine … I note that there on the basis of merit
who possess the requisite candidates in the profession
of Appeal. skills to serve erve as a Judge Yours sincerely,cerely,
Jarrod Bleijie LetterLeLetter from Jarrod Bleijie tot JusticeJ Margaret McMurdo I fear you may have been misled in suggesting I have no time to meet to discuss this matter this year … Having been advised that you were unwilling to speak to me over the telephone on 27 November 2014, an offer was conveyed to your staff that I would be happy to discuss the matter with you the following week over the telephone. Again your staff advised this was not acceptable to you … in view of your reluctance to speak to me, I will rely upon the contents of your correspondence to providee some measure of guida guidancec … Yours sincerely,cerely, David Jackson and Bar Association president Shane Doyle QC were also “unanimously” considered suitable appointees, she wrote.
Justice McMurdo and Mr Bleijie were involved in a fierce public spat in March last year after she criticised the lack of women in top judicial roles.
In her November letter to Mr Bleijie, Justice McMurdo wrote that there were suitable women candidates “although not the preferred appointee”.
In replies to both letters, Mr Bleijie advised he had discussed the matter “with the Chief Justice and representatives of both branches of the legal profession”.