3 Nov 2005

Top level row in Fiji's judiciary

8:26 am on 3 November 2005

A row at the highest levels of Fiji's judiciary has surfaced again, years after it first developed during the Speight 2000 coup.

The Fiji Sun reports that three High Court judges have asked that Justice Michael Scott not be included in Supreme Court panels reviewing their cases because of his alleged bias towards them.

The request has been made by Justice Nazhat Shameem, Justice Anthony Gates and Justice John Byrne who claim that Justice Scott exercises extreme hostility towards them.

These three judges had opposed the giving of legal advice and drafting of decrees by the former chief justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga, and two other judges during the 2000 coup.

The three are concerned that the five-year rift between them and Justice Scott could affect the course of justice.

The Sun says it has obtained documents including a letter to the chief justice, Daniel Fatiaki, on why Justice Scott should be excluded from any Supreme Court panel that has to rule on cases heard by them.

The newspaper says Justice Scott had a difference of opinion with the three judges when the coup convict Ratu Rakuita Vakalabure filed an appeal but the Appeal Court upheld Justice Shameem's ruling.

The three judges say that since 2000 Justice Scott has shown extreme hostility towards them, demanded an inquiry into their conduct and allegedly threatened to sue them on his retirement from the bench.

Justice Shameem filed an application to have any court with Justice Scott on the panel disqualified from hearing the Vakalalabure appeal because of his hostility towards her.

But the bid to have Justice Scott disqualified from hearing the Vakalabure case has failed.