27 Nov 2012

Report recommends clearer judicial appointment process

9:14 pm on 27 November 2012

The Law Commission wants legislation which would require the Attorney-General to spell out exactly how he decides who should become a High Court judge.

The recommendation is one of many in a report released on Tuesday that says the laws governing courts, the Judicature Act 1908, should be rewritten and consolidated into a single act to make them clearer.

The Law Commission says even members of the legal profession are confused about how to apply for the role of High Court judge.

It says the Attorney-General, who recommends candidates to the Governor-General, should be required to publish the process he or she will follow.

Commission president Sir Grant Hammond says the law would spell out the criteria for appointments, such as personal character and legal abilities.

Sir Grant says it would also require the Attorney-General to consult with people such as the presidents of the Law Society and Criminal Bar Association.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says she hopes some "ridiculous anomalies" can be cleared up through proposals to overhaul one of New Zealand's oldest pieces of legislation and some of the report's 89 recommendations look worthwhile.

"Four of those in particular are very interesting, particularly around unifying the district courts.

"We have a ridiculous situation at the moment where every district court is a court in itself, rather than under the direct control of the Chief Judge, but also making sure we have one piece of legislation for all the courts rather than the current situation."

New law to limit vexatious litigants

The Law Commission says it should be easier for courts to limit the actions of vexatious litigants.

The commission's report says judges should be able to impose a restraint order on someone involved in a case who has made two or more applications that are without merit.

It says there would be three levels of order - the toughest requiring someone to have permission before initiating any type of court proceedings.

At present, only the Attorney-General can apply to have someone deemed vexatious and only the High Court can make the order.

Law Commission president Sir Grant Hammond says there are people who have brought close to 100 cases in the higher courts, which is a drain on resources.

Sir Grant says a similar three-tiered system is working well in Britain.