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Judiciary makes submissions on Judicature Modernisation Bill

Members of New Zealand's judiciary have made a number of submissions on the Judicature Modernisation Bill.

The bill makes a number of important changes to the law relating to New Zealand's courts and judicial processes. It includes some reforms resulting from the government's response to the Law Commission's Review of the Judicature Act 1908. 

A submission by the Judges of the District Court says the judges support the bill and many of the initiatives that it introduces.

"The District Courts Act 1947 has now been in operation for 65 years. The Bill presents a timely and necessary update of that legislation," the submission says.

The judges say aspects of the bill which they support include:

  • Moving to a unitary District Court;
  • Removing all references to "inferior court";
  • Allowing judicial appointments of practitioners who have spent time overseas;
  • Requiring the Attorney-General to publish information on the appointment process;
  • Giving the Chief District Court Judge power to appoint an Acting Chief District Court Judge, Acting Principal Family Court Judge, and Acting Principal Youth Court Judge;
  • Creating a statutory position of Acting Principal Youth Court Judge;
  • Extending the jurisdiction of Community Magistrates, Justices and Registrars to amend and withdraw charges under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.

The judges say there are other areas where the bill will negatively impact on their ability to orderly and efficiently conduct the business of the District Courts. These are summarised in an appendix giving their key areas of concern.

A submission by the Judges of the Environment Court seeks a number of changes relating to supporting lay persons, contempt of Court, recusal of Environment Commissioners, restriction of vexatious litigants and the veto of electronic communications in a proceeding.

A submission has also been made by the members of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court

This outlines a number of areas of concern about the effect of the bill on the independence and functionality of the judiciary.

A key concern is omission of section 3 of the Supreme Court Act 2003 from the bill. The submission says the judicial function includes interpreting and applying the law made by Parliament and the common law to actual disputes and ensuring that the rule of law is observed.

"These principles of the constitution are recognised in section 3 of the Supreme Court Act 2003 but are omitted in the Bill which will repeal that Act. Since it is inconceivable that constitutional commitment either to the sovereignty of Parliament or the rule of law is intended to be undermined in the Bill, perhaps it has been thought that these statements go without saying," the submission says.

"Given the findings of the Constitutional Advisory Panel that the elements and values of the New Zealand constitution are not well understood, such assumption may be unwise. More dangerously, there is a risk that deletion of reference to these elements will be seen to be a legislative choice of significance."

The Judges of the Maori Land Court have also lodged a submission on the bill. The submission focuses on the clauses which amend the Court's empowering legislation, Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993. It says the judges support the overall purpose the the clauses, which amend certain aspects of the Maori Land Court's jurisdiction, but want to point out a number of errors or inconsistencies in the bill as drafted.

A submission from the judges of the Employment Court includes expression of concern at a change in the bill which the judges believe would hamper and restrict the employment advocacy profession. 

The Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices Associations Incorporated also lodged a submission, commenting on aspects of the judicial roles of Justices of the Peace.

 

Last updated on the 27th March 2014