Judges rarely have a go at other
judges. In fact, the High Court recently upheld the silly idea that
lawyers cannot be sued for negligence in court. So if lawyers can’t be
brought to account by clients, what happens to hapless members of the
judiciary? Tsk tsk and a gentle overruling seems to be the order of the
day in most appellate jurisdictions.

So it was with a sense of amazement that one reads the following attack on the performance of a judge appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald here. Talk about a comprehensive bucketing of a former fellow judge. Here are two quotes by Acting Justice Hunt who wrote the unanimous decision, handed down yesterday.

The delay of 17 months in giving judgment in the present
case was not satisfactorily explained by the judge and, in my opinion,
such delay was inordinate. I am satisfied that the delay was
destructive of the quality of the judgment given to the extent that the
judgment cannot be allowed to stand…

In my opinion, the
defects demonstrated in the judgment delivered by Dowd J constitute
serious error on his part. The plaintiffs have not had a fair trial of
their case. I am satisfied that the errors made by the judge occasioned
a substantial miscarriage of justice. Accordingly, I would uphold the
plaintiffs’ appeal and order a new trial on all issues.

How’s that for a full-on rejection of John Dowd’s
abilities as a judge in this particular case? Dowd got a mention in a
Crikey list of Judges with political backgrounds here.
Dowd was leader of the NSW Libs from 1982 until 1993 before becoming
Nick Greiner’s Attorney General. Greiner then appointed him to the NSW
Supreme Court.

The SMH points out that Dowd retired from
the Supreme Court in August last year, shortly after becoming entitled
to a lifetime pension.

Peter Fray

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