QUEENSLAND’S top judge has spoken out about judicial independence, claiming the executive as “paymaster” model demands that judges enjoy security of tenure, financial security and freedom to control the court.
The Hon Paul de Jersey, the Chief Justice of Queensland, told new members of the Legislative Assembly in Parliament House last week that the judiciary depends upon the other arms of government to respect that judges are not public servants.
“Judges deliver justice according to law, at no one’s behest, independently,” he said. “The judiciary must be completely immune from political pressure.”
Queensland’s judges need to continue to enjoy security of tenure in order to ensure they are not concerned with making decisions to please the body responsible for their reemployment, he said.
“Sometimes the rule of law means courts must make judgements which governments find distasteful: the courts must be in a position to apply the law fearlessly, fearlessly to stand between citizen and State.”
The Chief Justice defended judges’ typically bulky pay packets, noting they ensure judges are not tempted to accept bribes.
De Jersey told his audience that judges needed the security of control over the administration of their courts to prevent, among other things, other branches of government from influencing the allocation of judges to particular cases.
While he made no reference to it, his comments come as the independence of the judiciary in Fiji is being tested. President Ratu Josefa Iliolo abolished the constitution, fired all the judges and declared a state of emergency in response to a senior court ruling that Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s regime was unlawful.
Fiji’s Ministry of Information said in a statement that there would be a “slight disruption” to the country’s courts Tuesday because Iliolo was in the process of appointing new judges and magistrates. The appointments were expected “soon”.
Peter Williams, a New Zealand lawyer who has tried cases in Fiji’s courts, told TVOne News that any imposed judicial system would be “a sham”.
“The independence of the judiciary is the most important quality of all. How can any person become a judge if that person is to agree to be a slave to a pirate government?” he said.