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Evicted tenant accuses Supreme Court justice of bias

An evicted tenant challenging a court’s decision to terminate her tenancy alleged a Supreme Court justice favoured submissions of the other party and had prematurely decided against her.

user iconNaomi Neilson 28 March 2024 Big Law
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Pippa Vanessa Snook was unsuccessful in having Justice Fiona Seaward of the Western Australian Supreme Court recused from hearing her case against the Housing Authority and Magistrate Trevor Darge on grounds of actual or apprehended bias.

Snook originally turned to the Magistrates Court when the Housing Authority issued a no fault termination notice in November 2022.

In the initial matter, Magistrate Darge sided with the Housing Authority and made an order terminating Snook’s tenancy and granted the possession of the premises to the company.


Snook moved into the Supreme Court to allege Magistrate Darge misdirected himself as to the requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and denied her natural justice.

During the course of the Supreme Court matter, Snook made a number of adjournment applications.

When the final adjournment was refused, Snook sent a number of emails that included allegations Justice Seaward had predetermined the outcome of the adjournment application.

Snook alleged this was evident in earlier decisions Justice Seaward had made, conduct during the hearing which indicated favouritism towards the Housing Authority, and claims Justice Seaward placed undue weight on the submissions made by the other party.

Justice Seaward clarified Snook was seeking a recusal.

“I did not (and do not) accept Snook’s submissions that I am actually biased against Snook or her case,” Justice Seaward said.

“I was satisfied (and remain satisfied) that I am able to, and will fairly, objectively and impartially deal with Snook’s legal arguments in the final review order hearing on their merits and in accordance with the proper performance of my judicial function.”

Snook’s application for a clinical psychologist to assess her capability and the necessity to appoint a solicitor was also knocked back.

Justice Seaward found there was no evidence Snook was incapable of managing her affairs in respect of the final review order.

She added Snook had been capable of understanding the nature of the review order as well as previous interlocutory applications.

“I have observed Snook also appears to have understood the issues before the court, as well as what is being said by the court, amicus and counsel for the Housing Authority,” Justice Seward said.

A decision on the final review order was reserved.

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