The Supreme Court has suddenly become a hot topic as Chief Justice Elias prepares to exit in March 2019. Mrs Elias was appointed by Prime Minister Shipley in 1999 and headed the new Supreme Court in 2004.
I agree with the critics who express concern about the current selection process and the last thing Kiwis need is the appointment of another judicial activist. Some of the likely names being bandied about are alarming and anyone with entrenched race-based or political views must not be considered as impartiality is the paramount test.
The Supreme Court has in my view operated ‘dysfunctionally’ since its inception and to be fair I can’t recall seeing many (if any) decisions I agreed with. Jettisoning the Privy Council which gave us access to the finest legal brains, at no cost to NZ while governing the excesses of NZ judges was a mistake — it was a major constitutional change, which necessitated a binding referendum. The job of judges and the courts is primarily to interpret and apply statutes/ common law, not make their own laws per se. The electorate must be sole arbiter on creation of laws, albeit unfortunately via politicians.
Binding referendums on all major issues might assist in settling some things that become contentious and at least this gives the ‘irrelevant majority’ a say in matters.
Any Supreme Court appointment needs a wide consensus probably involving NZ Law Society/ NZ Bar Association, and senior judges not simply someone chosen by the the Prime Minister who can’t even select a credible Cabinet — that would certainly be an accident looking for a place to happen. Anything else would be right up there with John Key’s effectively unilateral moves to appoint the new governor general and drive the new flag referendum. Perhaps the Chief Justice and President of Supreme Court posts should be separate appointments with 10-year time limits.
A by the way observation the Prime Minister, Chief Justice, GovernorGeneral, and three of five Supreme Court judges are women, now that’s what one would call gender equality in spades.
Literal thought for the day ‘quis custodies ipsos custodes’ or who judges the judges? ROB PATERSON