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THE CHRISTIF CORRESPONDENCE., Issue 7967, 24 July 1889
THE CHRISTIF CORRESPONDENCE.
The WARD-HisLOP-cwm-FERGUS correspondence is a more unpleasant matter than even the Fisher-Atkin-son trouble. Here we have two Ministers attacking a Judge of the District Court, and charging him with wott improper conduct; and, on the other hand, there is the Judge sneering at and defying Ministers in a purely sarcastic way all his own. To our thinking, the contest does not reflect credit on either of the disputants. The judicial office is by common consent held to be sacred in a manner, and to be kept apart from all personal considerations. As such it has always been treated under the British Constitution, and as such it is held to remain. In all British colonies, dependencies, or possessions, no authority but that of Parliament, which is rightly held to Tielihe supreme power in the State, can dismiss a judge from his office. Of course, this only applies to judges of the Supreme Court, and the Christie affair, which has caused all this bother, came before Judge Ward whilst he was occupying the inferior position. We shall not attempt to defend Judge Ward's share of the correspondence, for it is marked with that vein of caustio sarcasm for which he "declined to recognise the right" of Messrs Fergus and Hislop to address him in. He deprecated the terms which they had used, and resented interference with his Court by Ministers at all. " Messrs Fergus and Hislop," as he somewhat disdainfully terms them, appear to have attacked him alternately; and the Judge seems to have met their attacks on the principle of " one down the other come on," and on the whole the incumbent of the judicial bench seems to have had rather the best of it. It must be recollected that the affair which gave rise to all this tempest occurred just as the vacancy to the Bench was filled, or on the point of being filled; and probably Judge Ward's temper was none the smoother owing to his having been passed over, and Mr Denniston promoted above him. Be that as it may, it seems apparent that there was considerable asperity on both sides, and little consideration shown by either. Mr Hislop, it seems, questioned the right of Judge Ward to preside at Christie's trial, because he (Judge Ward) was himself indebted to the plaintiff company. Surely this is a strange notion. If every magistrate and judge is to vacate the Bench whenever a suitor plaintiff or defendant to whom he is at all indebted has a case in Court, we may have to duplicate all our judicial officers. The mere suggestion is a slur on the honor and honesty of those officers. But what makes it worse is that Mr Hislop's partner was Mr Christie's counsel; so that in calling the Judge to account the Colonial Secretary was in point of fact fighting the battles of his private firm. All the ground the Colonial Secretary had to go upon was, as already said, that Judge Ward owed money to the plaintiff company; and from this he seems to have inferred that the Judge's mind must of necessity have been biassed as in favor of the company. Now, one of two things was contended on Monday night: Either Judge Ward is not fit to sit on the judicial bench, or Mr Hislop is not fit to be Colonial Secretary. To the solution of this interesting problem the House addressed itself, and after much mutual vituperation, and the outpouring of gaseous wrath, arrived at no conclusion. This was probably because the members had not the papers—that is, the correspondence—before them. It had been produced—laid on the table is, we believe, the coriect phrase—and suddenly referred to a select committee to ponder and report upon; and before they had sufficiently pondered thereon or reported some eager purveyor of news had gathered the story revealed by the papers, and conveyed a synopsis of it to the 'Lyttelton Times' and other papers. Then the ' New Zealand Times,' not to be outdone, obtained "a true and authentic " version of the matter from somewhere—it does not do to inquire too curiously consequently there came on a fierce debate, for it is an unmistakeable breach of privilege for any person, to reveal to the profane outer world anything that takes place in committee ; but, as touts say: "It is of no consequence." Nothing came of it, nor is anything likely to come of it; only whatever chance of promotion Judge Ward may ever have had he has now lost it, at least for the present.
THE CHRISTIF CORRESPONDENCE., Issue 7967, 24 July 1889
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