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Chief Justice Not A Shop Steward

Chief Justice Not A Shop Steward

Monday 26 Jul 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution

Prime Minister Helen Clark's lordly dismissal of the Supreme Court's judges' concerns should have drawn a spirited defence from Attorney-General Margaret Wilson on their behalf, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"But, instead, she called the Chief Justice a `shop steward' for the judges. Shop stewards, are union trusties - site bosses on behalf of the union, selected to enforce union discipline, to isolate and stamp on strike breakers and other trouble-makers," Mr franks said.

"For the Attorney-General to compare the Chief Justice to a union functionary is an astonishing calculated insult.

"In the Westminster system, the Attorney-General is supposed to stand above politics in defence of the rule of law. She's Cabinet's legal conscience. She's supposed to be the champion of the judges when they are criticised, because they can't respond to political criticism themselves. She's the lawyer for the rule of law, and the judiciary, in government.

"Last year Ms Wilson pilloried me for questioning the Chief Justice's involvement in the seabed and foreshore case. Now she's joining in to trash the judges to save her political skin. Any principled lawyer defends the `client' - even when it conflicts with her interests.

"Ms Wilson has never been a suitable Attorney-General. Much of the judicial activism that Deputy Prime Minister Dr Michael Cullen complains about has been over deliberately vague law favoured by Ms Wilson. She expressly established the Supreme Court to `develop an indigenous law'.

"It has suited Labour to saddle the courts with delivering the bad news on unpalatable political deals. For example, the so-called principles of the Treaty were never defined. The judges had to invent something. While I do not support what they invented, the Attorney-General should stop her colleagues from blaming them for becoming inventive.

"Ms Wilson should let someone else become Attorney-General - someone who's prepared to do the job required by our constitution. If Miss Clark does not appoint a lawyer who will do the job, the judges may cast off their traditional gag and retaliate for themselves. This is a serious and unprecedented breakdown of our constitutional conventions," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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