New Zealand Law Society - Litigation funder lodges complaint with Judicial Complaints Commissioner

Litigation funder lodges complaint with Judicial Complaints Commissioner

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New Zealand litigation funding company LPF Group Ltd says it has laid a complaint with the Judicial Complaints Commissioner against the Chief Justice.

The matter relates to a case brought by the liquidators of Property Ventures Ltd (in liquidation) against PricewaterhouseCoopers and the directors of Property Ventures Ltd.

This was settled before judgment was issued by the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court issued a judgment ([2017] NZSC 151) with four members of the Court stating that it indicated how they would have ruled had they been required to, and that the appeal involved important issues on which the Court had heard full argument. Delivery of the judgment would cause no detriment to the respondents, they said.

Elias CJ issued a dissenting judgment and stated (at [99]) that she differed from the other members of the Court in being of the view that the Court should not deliver judgment following settlement "in large part because of the way in which the appeal has been argued."

In a statement, LPF Group director Phil Newland says the complaint is brought "on the basis of a breach of natural justice, judicial bias and a failure to disclose potential conflicts of interest to all parties".

"This isn’t a decision LPF Group has taken lightly. However, the Chief Justice is the most senior judge in New Zealand, and her opinions carry considerable weight in the legal community," he says.

"Given the potential implications for plaintiffs accessing justice through litigation funding, often against well-resourced defendants typically with large insurance companies behind them, LPF Group feels very strongly that the circumstances need to be investigated in this instance. The potential impact of the comments has been highlighted by the way a significant insurance law firm representing the other side in the case has reported the decision in a public newsletter, as "creating uncertainty over litigation funding.

"The complaint is not related to the legal outcome of the case. The Chief Justice offered a series of unfair and unjustified opinions which were not related to the legal questions before the Court, and made incorrect and highly concerning remarks about the legitimacy of litigation funding in New Zealand."