31 May 2010

Panel to probe Supreme Court judge's case

10:14 pm on 31 May 2010

A Judicial Conduct Panel has been appointed to investigate a complaint about a Supreme Court judge.

The complaint relates to whether Justice Bill Wilson should have sat on a case in the Court of Appeal in which one of his business partners was a lawyer for one of the parties.

Justice Wilson did not disclose that he owed the lawyer $250,000 until after an initial Supreme Court appeal on the matter.

The Judicial Conduct Commissioner recommended that the complaint be investigated further. That recommendation has been accepted by acting Attorney-General Judith Collins, who named the panel on Monday.

It will consist of senior judges, Justice Randerson and Justice Winkelmann, and Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem.

The panel has the same powers as a commission of inquiry and can recommend that a judge be removed from office.

Meanwhile, Justice Wilson is applying to block the inquiry. His lawyer, Colin Carruthers, has confirmed to Radio New Zealand that he will be applying to the High Court to quash the decision.

Mr Carruthers says the grounds for the judicial review application have not yet been decided, but the Attorney-General's office has been informed.

The Law Society says the official inquiry will be the first of its kind in New Zealand.