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Brownlee rapped over knuckles by top lawyer

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee should recognise the rule of law even when he doesn't like the results.

This is the view of Stephen Mills QC, president of the New Zealand Bar Association, in response to criticism of High Court Justice Graeme Panckhurst by Mr Brownlee in Parliament.

Mr Brownlee was referring to a High Court case brought by the 68-strong Quake Outcasts challenging Crown payouts that offer half of government valuation.

He has used the case as a reason to delay zoning decisions on many other hillside homes.

In response to a question, Mr Brownlee said he found it extraordinary that “someone can sit on the bench of a court in this country and inflict such injustice on so many people.”

Mr Mills QC says Mr Brownlee’s comments are dangerous.

“It is the role of judges to make their decisions according to law. For a senior government politician to publicly criticise a judge for fulfilling his constitutional role, and to imply that he ought not to be a judge because he has made a decision that the minister dislikes, is dangerous. The rule of law needs to be recognised and supported by politicians, even when they do not like the results,” Mr Mills says.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz

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Comments and questions
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Since when has the judiciary been exempt from criticism; there is no legislation to this effect. Mills is being rather too precious.
He would do better if he counselled his members 'to stop making excuses for their clients' when representing them in court.; and accept that the clearly guilty 'are guilty'.

Since the establishment of Government in New Zealand, and far before that. The separation of powers doctrine and an independant judiciary are fudnamental tenants of democracy, and are recognised in the Cabinet Manual at para 4.12.

The judiciary like everyone else needs to be accountable. They are not beyond reproach and therefore it is appropriate for commentary to be made about their actions. They are paid by the people of New Zealand to do a job. The role of the judiciary is just like, life it needs to evolve. If they don't like or can't take criticism then change their choice of work. Stop being so precious.

Judge's are not immune from criticism, it's only Parliamentarians that are to refrain from criticising them. And that convention cuts both ways - you won't find Judge's getting personally stuck into the Minister even when it might be well due.

Given the number of times Gerry and Hekia have been found to have acted unlawfully during the ChCh rebuild to date (despite having passed laws in their favour), they might want to pause and think about whether its wise to be throwing the first stone.

you really need to remember that brownlee mass still has the law to answer to! until his lot change yet another.

Lawyers never criticise judges and judges never criticise the police(well unless it is a discredited one standing in the dock. I once sat in on a trafic case where the judge in summing up said 'this is a case where either Mrs ......... is lying or the Police Officer is mistaken'

Never occured to him that the cop might have been lying. Needles to say he found for the defendent

The Judges/Lawyers thing is just a cosy club

If the judge was "summing up", he would have been speaking to the jury. What you would have heard was not what "occured to him" but was his instruction to the jury about what they had to decide. Obivously, if a jury is present, it is them and not the judge who would have 'found for the defendant'.

I get Brownlee's point, having heard him explain it recently, but given the circumstances, I think Stephen Mills' "dangerous" comment is bang on. Brownlee IS the law as far as the "rule of law" is concerned, he has the power to rewrite practically any law he wishes, on a whim (though it would do him no good politically if he were to be so blatant). So to take this wildly un-democratic and un-popular stance against some of the very people who are worst affected by his un-lawful decisionmaking, well that's perverse bordering on dangerous. The "rule of law" is fluid in this situation, and Brownlee knows it.

I find Mr Mills outburst somewhat offensive, in that he is not letting the truth get in the way of his political agenda. Gerry Brownlee made comment about an interpretation of law, which he felt had disadvantaged many people. That is what democracy and freedom is all about, the right to speak out. What is very disturbing is a QC cleasrly using media to ingratiate himself with the courts, no doubt expecting some sort of old boys repayment in the future..

I reserve the right to criticise the judiciary on any matter I feel. I accept Brownlee might choose to do the same. However Brownlee and that fetid bunch of EQC incompetents and associates fail to see that their petulant criticism in this case caused much joy by the general public supporting the victims, Brownlee would have been best to hang his head very quietly in shame.