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Nats’ golden handshake to disgraced judge

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, October 22nd, 2010 - 32 comments
Categories: corruption, Ethics, law and "order" - Tags: , ,

When Justice Bill Wilson failed to recuse himself from a case involving his business partner whom he owed quarter of a million dollars, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson didn’t want to investigate telling fellow National MP Colin King “Justice Wilson is a mate of mine and there’s no way I am pursuing this any further”. Now, Wilson’s got a $885,000 golden handshake from the government.

A judicial misconduct process was underway that looked certain to end up with Judith Collins, acting in Finlayson’s place, having to decide whether Wilson should be sacked. How convenient then, for Finlayson, Wilson, and the government that they have agreed for Wilson to resign and be given a year’s salary ($410,00) and his legal costs of $475,000 (what was he doing, hiring lawyers dipped in rubies?).

This is how the disgraced elite are treated in National’s New Zealand. Paul Henry gets a $150,000 payout. Wilson gets $885,000. National is happy to play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money when the recipients are their mates and it makes an awkward political issue go away.

How many teachers’ pay rises could Wilson’s golden handshake have paid for? How many state houses could it have built?

Why are we being forced to pay out nearly a million dollars to a disgraced judge who resigned? Why isn’t he in jail and paying the Crown’s legal costs?

Why? Because good mates of this government don’t get punished, they get payouts.

32 comments on “Nats’ golden handshake to disgraced judge ”

  1. infused 1

    Labour would have done the same thing. Don’t kid yourself.

    • Blighty 1.1

      and it would have been disgraceful then too.

      Are you principled enough to condemn the government or are you too busy on your knees in front of Key?

      • infused 1.1.1

        I never said it was the right thing to do, I’m just saying anyone in power would have let this happen to avoid an enquiry.

        • Blighty

          so you agree what the National government did was wrong.

          just say it, without the ‘they would have done it too’, which is even weaker than they ‘they did it too’ fallacy

    • Vicky32 1.2

      You know that how?

    • bbfloyd 1.3

      go and talk kaka some where else infused… the “labour did it too” rubbish is gotten very old..

    • wasi 1.4

      two wrongs don`t make the right right…

  2. the sprout 2

    If this payout is, as Judith Collins said yesterday, meant to protect the reputation of the Judiciary, then frankly I can’t think of a worse way to achieve that.

    Even if it does take money and time to get to the bottom of this fiasco, surely a proper enquiry would be the way.

    A golden handshake with no answers just undermines the public’s confidence in the Judiciary.

    • pollywog 2.1

      FWIW, as a Pasifikan male, I’ve never had confidence in the judiciary.

      • comedy 2.1.1

        You don’t have to be pasifikan to have little faith in the judiciary polly – though I’m sure it helps.

        This guys history looks particularly whiffy.


  3. deemac 3

    this guy is a disgrace and there seems no valid reason to pay him anything above the legal minimum (which is probably quite handsome on his salary). Definitely one law for the rich going on here.

    • Zorr 3.1

      The legal minimum here would be nil. Dismissed for serious misconduct. Would dare him to appeal that decision.

  4. Scott 4

    “When Justice Bill Wilson failed to recuse himself from a case involving his business partner whom he owed quarter of a million dollars,”

    That I understand has never been established conclusively.

    “Attorney-General Chris Finlayson didn’t want to investigate telling fellow National MP Colin King “Justice Wilson is a mate of mine and there’s no way I am pursuing this any further””

    Finlayson couldn’t intervene because he had a conflict of interest – not because he didn’t want to. That’s why Judith Collins took this matter on. The claim made about Finlayson in the affidavit is essentially hearsay and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    Judges are entitled to be paid their reasonable legal costs, which is part of the reason for the huge payout. It’s a constitutional protection afforded to judges, to protect them from litigation by people who don’t like their decisions.

    “what was he doing, hiring lawyers dipped in rubies?”

    The fees don’t sound excessive, considering how long this has dragged on. If you want the best representation you pay top dollar.

    If Wilson hadn’t been paid out the case would probably have cost the taxpayer much more. The decision probably saves money.

    • Blighty 4.1

      “The fees don’t sound excessive, considering how long this has dragged on”

      how long this has dragged on? It only started in April this year – half a million dollars is ten years’ full time on the average salary

      “Finlayson couldn’t intervene because he had a conflict of interest – not because he didn’t want to”

      he didn’t want to. eventually the government was forced to act, so it was handed to Collins.

      “The claim made about Finlayson in the affidavit is essentially hearsay and shouldn’t be taken seriously”

      It’s a sworn statement of what someone was told by an MP – you’re calling Richard Bell or Colin King a liar.

      “If Wilson hadn’t been paid out the case would probably have cost the taxpayer much more. The decision probably saves money.”

      Do you take this attitude when someone steals a car or only when rich judges are caught helping out their debtors?

      • Scott 4.1.1

        “how long this has dragged on? It only started in April this year”

        No, this matter’s been going on since at least the middle of last year.

        “half a million dollars is ten years’ full time on the average salary”

        Maybe so, but lawyers are expensive to hire. It’s a fact of life. Top lawyers are even more expensive.

        “he didn’t want to. eventually the government was forced to act, so it was handed to Collins”

        Would you rather he took action even though he was clearly conflicted by a friendship? His stepping down was appropriate.

        “It’s a sworn statement of what someone was told by an MP – you’re calling Richard Bell or Colin King a liar.”

        Not at all. But has Colin King confirmed the conversation? Maybe Bell misheard, interpreted King’s words incorrectly, or is plain mistaken. That’s why third-hand evidence (A said B said C said something) is generally unreliable.

        “Do you take this attitude when someone steals a car or only when rich judges are caught helping out their debtors?”

        I’m sorry, did I miss something? Are you alleging Wilson committed a criminal offence? If not why compare this situation with the theft of a car?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.2

      Thats the old ‘burn the village to save it’ story.
      hes a judge, the money isnt saved not by paying his salary,as another judge will take his place.
      And as for saving the legal costs, thats a consideration for private businesses, but the state has higher concerns than the small change these things would cost
      This way it seems the judge has ‘bought his way out a situation of his own making’ with delay and every legal maneuver possible

  5. Nick K 5

    Why should Bill Wilson be in jail Marty?

  6. JayMal 6

    Half that “handshake” was a statutory requirement stupidly put in there by the last Labour government. The other half was a years salary that would have been paid to him anyway while the case drags on, can’t see the case taking much less than a year. On top of that the stupid statutory clause mean’t we’d have to pay his ongoing legal costs… regardless of guilt…

    • Dilbert 6.1

      Jaymal it doesn’t matter if the man was legally entitled to that money or if it makes better economic sense to have done so. What matters is that the National party was involved and they’re all lying, thieving scum so we have to use this opportunity to whine incessantly about how bad they are.

  7. anonomis 7

    What did you expect? This is the result of Labour creating a NZ Supreme Court and removing the final right of appeal to the UK Privy Council. The NZ legal community is small and you can reasonably expect incestuous relationships and conflicts of interest at the higher echelons of the judiciary. Another home run for Labour.

    Even it’s more economical for Wilson to have resigned, it’s a shame that he has because, for there to be confidence in justice, justice must be seen to be done – even for a Supreme Court justice facing serious allegations.

    • anonimis makes an excellent point. When our last appeal is to other members of an incredibly small pool of jurists who undoubtedly know the jurists against whom we are appealing, and most of the lawyers involved, on a personal basis, we’re asking an almost superhuman feat of those judges of last resort.

      Australia manages because the High Court is drawn from different states and the states tend to be quite insular, so it’s far more likely the parties don’t know one another (and of course there’s a bigger pool of lawyers and judges to start with).

      If the Privy Council was seen as an anachronism, perhaps we should have looked at something with Australia? After all, the High Court there deals with appeals under the (often extremely different) laws of six states plus the Commonwealth (and territory laws as well).

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        So, how many lawyers are there in NZ? And how many are needed to keep the necessary degrees of separation?

        • Herodotus

          So, how many lawyers are there in NZ? To many, and we are over represented in this profession in Wellington.
          Question Why is it that there are so many Lawyers as Mp’s and involved in politics?
          From my sd to say extensive contacts with many lawyers on a professional basis, we in NZ are poorly served in this profession especially when they charge out $250 – $400/hr. I pay a lower rate for an oncologist vists and this IS life and death.
          My comments exclude any newly elected lawyers onto local community boards !!! 😉

  8. William Joyce 8

    Scott said – “I’m sorry, did I miss something? Are you alleging Wilson committed a criminal offence?”
    How would we know? Legal processes were not carried to a conclusion in the matter. His resignation was a negotiated settlement out of court.

    Justice was not seen to be done and the reputation of the judicary was NOT protected. Rather, it was shown that a person who is, by any and every reasonable measure, ethically required to hold to a higher standard of conduct was able to escape official scrutiny and possible sanctions. Further, he was able to retain the benfits of his employment conditions (benefits that could have been lost if sanctioned for not doing his job) and then compensated for any expenses he incured.

    In a properly conducted democracy the rules for the “privileged” are different than for the average Joe.
    One rule since 1215 is that nobody is above the law.
    One rule is that they are more subject to scrutiny and accountability.
    One rule is that they are to be given less room for mercy and accommodation when they offend.

    This action of the privileged protecting the privileged is indefensible, sickens me and shows once again that we do not live in a properly conducted democracy.

    Instead of defending this man take a step back and ask yourself if some Joe working at the local supermarket would have been treated the same.
    Think about the hours of labour that other people have to sacrifice to pay the taxes that will pay for Wilson’s cushy deal.

    Again, the lesser status people of our society pay for the life of the privileged.

    ghostwhowalksnz is right. The state has obligations to the people (in a proper democracy ie. not one where it is a servant to the crown) to ensure that the institutions of state are credible, efficient & timely, impartial and un-corruptable. As such, the considerations are different and the cost to the people is the price we pay to ensure that state, judiciary etc can not be bought, influenced, abused etc. Not only that but seen to be these things.
    Consequently it is in our interests to pay to have Mr Wilson’s conduct investigated and a determination made as to his guilt or innocence in this matter. We are NOT served by him being able to escape scrutiny and possible sanctions. If for no other reason than to show that confidence can be held in the instutions of our state.

    One has to wonder if the pollies and wigs would make the same decisions if they were at the business end of an angry, revolutionary populace.

    *once again, wondering if people should wear more hats, the writer is distracted by the empty burbon glass next to him and the cute chick reporter on tv as she wipes back her hair while displaying her complete ignorance of the subject, history, context and the English language*

  9. I agree the government’s handling of this has been an expensive farce. But hey, with Judith Collins in charge were we expecting anything different?

    But to call Justice Wilson “disgraced” is over-egging the pudding. There’s an allegation of non-disclosure which, sadly, will never be tested in an open hearing now. But the fact remains (and is overlooked in the anti-Wilson tirades above) that he found against the client of the lawyer from whom he’d borrowed the money. So not a whiff of corruption… quite the opposite.

    In fact if I were to play Devil’s Advocate I might say that a judge who’s prepared to annoy someone to whom he owes a lot of money is exactly the kind of judge I’d like to see more of. Most I come up against are so concerned with not upsetting the status quo that trials before them are a foregone conclusion… you just look at the precedents and that’s what you’ll end up with, with no real regard for mitigating circumstances.

  10. nilats 10

    Would not have happened at all like this if we still had the Privy Council as our highest court. NZ Supreme Court judges are of poor quality & bent.

    • Rharn 10.1

      The whole legal system is bent and incapable of straightening itself. Just take a look at the problem of Scot Watson’s conviction and various appeals for correcting that injustice.

      And for those that think he is guilty read TRIAL BY TRICKERY by Keith Hunter guaranteed to change your mind.

  11. Seeking justice 11

    Rex Widerstrom is mistaken. Justice Wilson found for his mate’s client (not agaisnt it).

    The Supreme Court identified the issues when it granted leave to Saxmere to appeal on 7 November 2008:
    Saxmere v Wool Board [2008] NZSC 94 (7 November 2008)
    “A Leave to appeal is granted.
    B The approved ground is whether the decision of the Court of Appeal in Wool

    Board Disestablishment Co Ltd v Saxmere Co Ltd and Others [2007] NZCA 349

    should be set aside because of a reasonable apprehension of bias resulting

    from Wilson J’s relationship with Mr Galbraith QC, counsel for the appellant

    in that Court.


    [1] We have no doubt that despite the earlier refusal of leave, sought only

    on grounds unrelated to the ground now raised, this Court has jurisdiction

    to entertain a second application in the circumstances of this case.

    [2] The appellants have deposed that they were unaware of the full details

    of the alleged relationship between the Judge and counsel. The proposed

    appeal, though dependent on factual matters being established, raises

    important questions concerning the administration of justice in New Zealand.

    If the arguments intended to be made by the appellants succeed there would

    be an appearance of a miscarriage of justice. It is therefore appropriate

    that this Court should hear and determine the proposed appeal on the

    approved ground. That ground encompasses both the alleged apprehension of

    bias and any questions concerning possible waiver on part of the appellants.”

    Justice Wilson knew that the full detai;s of his relationship with Mr Galbraith were in issue, yet he repeated chose to disclose to his fellow judges only the parts that suited him. He gave different information to the Chief Justice. Even with what they had, the Supreme Court said Wilson J was beholden to Galbraith and should not have heard the case. Wilson is trying to relitigate that through the media.
    Interesting how the government relies on court processes- until they dont suit it any more!

  12. randal 12

    everybody in NZ gets a golden handshake except the poor.
    they provide the soil for the justice industry but never reap the rewards.
    funny that.

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