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Standards Committee issues decision: Catriona MacLennan

Standards Committee issues decision about lawyer who said a Judge was not fit to sit on the bench.

A Lawyers Standards Committee has decided to take no further action against a lawyer who said it was inappropriate for a District Court Judge to continue to serve on the bench.

Auckland Barrister, Catriona MacLennan’s statements were the subject of an investigation following her public criticism of Judge John Brandts-Giesen.

Judge Brandts-Giesen discharged a Queenstown man without conviction in a domestic violence case last year. The man had assaulted his wife, a male friend and his daughter.

The judge said, ‘This is a situation that does your wife no credit and does the [male] no credit’ and ‘there would be many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it may be against the law to do so.’

A member of the public complained about Ms MacLennan’s criticism of the judge, prompting the committee to investigate.

Acting Executive Director of the New Zealand Law Society Mary Ollivier says the Standards Committee considered the explanation Ms MacLennan provided for her comments.

“It accepted that lawyers can express their views on the performance of judges but that those comments must be considered and not cross a line that could cause the public to lose confidence in the role of the judiciary and the role judges play in the administration of justice. The committee did not consider that Ms MacLennan’s comments had crossed that line. Her experience as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and the sentiment in which the comments were made were factors in the decision,” Mrs Ollivier says.

Mrs Ollivier says the high level of interest in this investigation by the public and the profession warranted the rare move of releasing the full decision by the Standards Committee.

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