High Court Ruling a Setback to Public Access of Records

Wellington Justice David Collins ruled on 15 April 2015 that administrative decisions of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Registrars are not judicially reviewable.  The summary strike out prevents challenge to the Supreme Court Registrar’s directive of October 2013 prohibiting public access to Supreme Court filings, as well as this website’s attempt to publish filings on-line.  The Judgment’s reasoning: Registrars act “under the supervision of the Judges who comprise the Court”.

 

 

The ruling, Rabson v Registrar of the Supreme Court, turned New Zealand’s jurisprudence on its ear.  Parliament had ‘guaranteed’ judicial review against Crown decisions in passage of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, some 25 years ago.  However, Collins J did not address the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in his judgment analysis while accepting no alternative remedy to judicial review may be available in law.

 

The ruling now places New Zealand’s Supreme Court registrars, and likely Court of Appeal registrars, above the law.   In an answer to an Official Information Act request last year, the Ministry of Justice responded the number of NZ Court of Appeal registrars fluctuates depending upon the needs of the Court.   New Zealand has a history of Registrars engaging in rule of law breaches.

 

In R v Taito [2002] 3 NZLR 577, the Privy Council found rule of law breaches were systemic at the New Zealand Court of Appeal.   In 2004, the New Zealand Supreme Court replaced the Privy Council as the final court arbiter in New Zealand.

 

Rabson is appealing the ruling.

 

Prior to Collins’ ruling, a remedy in law was crucial to maintaining a lawful right.  In paragraph [17] of the judgment, Collins accepted this rudimentary legal principle – before ignoring it altogether.

 

In February, in Siemer v Registrar of the Supreme Court [2015] NZSC 21, the Supreme Court declared its own jurisdiction to review decisions by its Registrar was “doubtful” unless the decision concerned a substantive matter currently before the Court.   In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Attorney-General v Chapman [2011] NZSC 110 that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act was not enforceable against judges despite the plain wording of section 3 which declared it was.

 

At least on paper, judges are still accountable under the Act to each other.  Collins’ judgment leapfrogged the Supreme Court Registrars a step further, exempting them from judicial review under the Act and conceding their actions may not be accountable to anyone.

 

Mr Rabson has also appealed directly to the Supreme Court on the ground the Court relies ad nauseam on Parliament’s supremacy when it suits their strict interpretation of limits to court access and on rights generally, while Collins’ judgment ignored a legislated right and remedy in a piece of dominant legislation.

 

 

 

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Why This Site is Necessary

The New Zealand Supreme Court was established by statute only in 2003. It replaced the Privy Council in England as New Zealand's highest court.
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Two years before its establishment, the New Zealand Court of Appeal was found by the Privy Council in Taito v Q [2002] UKPC 15 to have engaged in systemic abuses of due process by dismissing as many as 1,500 appeals on an ex-parte basis over the previous 10 years, sometimes on the signature of a court registrar - dismissals often given only in handwritten notations on the court file.
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The public have been told these abuses have ceased despite the Court of Appeal judges found culpable for these due process breaches being the first appointees to the new Supreme Court. Only by seeing the public court records which these judges have been hiding will we truly know.