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THE RETIREMENT OF THE JUDGES.

The Canterbury Press supports our expressed views in regard to the recent retirement of the Judges. It Bays: We have already alluded to the grave public importance of the question raised by Mr. Justice Gresson in stating the reason for his retirement. His. Honor bases his case upon the policy of the Legislature, long acknowledged as fundamental, to secure the absolute independence of the judicial bench—an object finally accomplished, as it has been supposed, by the statute making them irremovable except upon the addresses of both Houses of the Legislature; and asks, " what becomes of the independence of the Judges if they may be ordered by the Minister of the day, as often as he pleases, to remove to whatever part of the colony he pleases V' "It is obvious," continues His Honor, 1 ' that such a power is open to gross abuse, and that if these be the terms on which they hold office, the Judges are not better off than when their commission was only during pleasure." The Government no doubt will say that they have been simply carrying out the wishes of the Assembly: and looking to the report of the committee on the Ward-Chapman enquiry, we arc willing to admit that, as far as the mere logic of the case goes, it is capable of the construction which would thuß be put upon it. The earlier part of their report deals with a charge of judicial partiality, not unnaturally inferred from a tie of family connection, such as must inevitably be formed during the long continuance of any particular Judges in one locality, and the suggestion which it makes if thus understood, is not ill adapted to remedy the inconvenience. It seems also to have been understood, when the Heuse of Representatives came to resolve upon tho matter, that it was practically to be left to +i,n rlionrntinn nf thn Government. But the

effect of their exercise of this discretion has been that three Judges out of five have resigned their offices rather than submit to the requirements made of them. Chief Justice Arney, Judgo Chapman, and Judge Gresson, one and all, informed the public that the solo reason for their ceasing to remain on the Bench is the demand made upon them by the Government to break up their establishments and form fresh ones in distant parts of the colony, with the implied liability of being called upon to repeat the process whensoever and as often as ever it may please the Ministers for the time being to make the demand. The bare fact that the majority of the Judges have thus resigned is the gravest imputation upon the conduct of the Government. We dare say that what the Government has done Is within the letter of the law. We do not happen to have seen any of their Honor's commissions,but we tako it for granted that if the demand made upon them had been on the face of it illegal, they would have refused compliance. But whether legal or not legal according to the letter, the simple fact is that wo have three or four Judges removed against their will without an address from either House of the Legislature, a result which we do not believe for one moment to have been contemplated either by the Joint Committee on the Ward-Chapman inquiry, or by the House itself when its passed its resolution. We aro not saying that there are no inconveniences in the present arrangements of our judicial system. In a future article we may have an opportunity of spying what we think of them, and how in our judgment they may best bo remedied. But the greatest of all evils is that the Government itself should stand forth as the head violator of the law. .-^ this, bo it

observed, not for any necessity even to remedy anything. The mistake made by Judge Chapman had been corrected by himEelf. No harm to anyone had resulted from it; and it was made impossiblo that it should ever happen again. The name of the chairman of the joint committee, Mr. J. B. Acland, is a guarantee that ho at least was not party consciously to any indirect proceeding ; but the reckless eagerness with which the Government havo thus trodden down the independence of Her Majesty's Judges causes an uneasy wonderment what hidden motive lurks behind, or what secret plans may be in the future. . - • W® are taking up no personal quarrel. The question at issue is one that concerns tho whole community. It involves, if not the purity of the Bench, at least that which is of next importance—the belief in Its purity. And it involves more. As we read tho occurrences which have taken place, the Constitution itself has been violated. We should be the first to applaud the courage of the statesman who seized upon the raro occasion in which to depart from tho forma of the Constitution in order to preserve its spirit; we shall as unhesitatingly impeach tho conduct of him -who disregards both, whether ha acts from the greed of patronage or la the mere wantonness of despotism.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZH18750420.2.27.4

Bibliographic details

THE RETIREMENT OF THE JUDGES., New Zealand Herald, Volume XII, Issue 4191, 20 April 1875, Supplement

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THE RETIREMENT OF THE JUDGES. New Zealand Herald, Volume XII, Issue 4191, 20 April 1875, Supplement

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