Barry Hart decision hidden by judge’s justice 'tax'

Barry Hart

A junior High Court judge has imposed a rare "justice tax" on a decision involving struck-off lawyer Barry Hart’s bank battles.

To get a copy of his reserved judgment in a case involving Mr Hart and ANZ Bank, Associate Judge David Abbott ordered media to pay a fee of $36.30.

The judge this week issued his decision to Mr Hart and the bank, and to commercial legal publications, but not to the public.

NBR ONLINE earlier reported the case in court and in the normal course of events requested a copy of the reserved judgment as soon as it became available.

A court official later told NBR ONLINE the decision – which would normally be emailed through – was available.

But on this occasion, for some unclear reason, NBR ONLINE was told Associate Judge Abbott ordered media to pay if they wanted a copy. No further explanation was given.

Judgment payment rare

Ordering media to pay for High Court judgments is rare.

Judges usually take the view quick access to their judgments is part of the open justice principles under which New Zealand courts operate.

There have been numerous High Court judgments in the Hart affair, none of which have been subject to a release fee.

There is considerable public interest in the financial and professional troubles of Mr Hart, so this judgment is of particular interest.

In due course the judgment may appear on the publicly accessible Judicial Decisions Online website, but there is no guarantee this will happen and if it does it can take two to three weeks or more to appear.

Questioned about the unusual move, an Auckland High Court official referred NBR ONLINE to 11 pages of a schedule of fees payable for everything from filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to fees payable under the Trustee Companies (Fees) Regulations 1997.

Justice boss yet to clarify

When justice ministry CEO Andrew Bridgeman visited NBR a couple of months back he was keen to remove inconsistent administrative hurdles journalists have to overcome in order to promptly advise the public of High Court judgments.

Mr Bridgeman has yet to reply to our request for clarification.

But already NBR ONLINE has been told this week it would have to apply for permission to report a straightforward commercial court case in open court.

We will not apply and will turn up as usual, no doubt to find parking meters on the Press Bench.

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You have to apply for permission to report a hearing in open court? This can't be true. Someone is being misled here.

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