Northern Territory-based Federal Court judge John Reeves is hearing a case against the Australian Crime Commission [ACC], despite the fact it involves actions against the ACC’s role in the Northern Territory Emergency Response.
Reeves had a direct involvement in the implementation of the Intervention in the months leading to his judicial appointment, yet he has not taken the customary approach of excusing himself from hearing matters in which he has had such an involvement.
The identity of the party involved has been surpressed at the order of the federal court.
An NT source told Crikey that in the current case, certain organisations [NTD8 is the only name that appears on court papers for one] have taken the ACC to the Federal Court to prevent the ACC taking certain actions.
The ACC has specific powers conferred to it under the Northern Territory Emergency response legislation to pursue child s–xual abuse activities. Crikey understands the plaintiffs in the current matters are arguing that the ACC is exceeding those powers.
Reeves was a strong supporter of the Intervention — he was appointed by John Howard and Mal Brough to serve on the Task Force attached to the Intervention.
Reeves reported on the Intervention to the Bennelong Society on 31 August last year as “A personal report from the field”, in which he endorsed the additional powers granted to the ACC.
As Crikey reported exclusively last year (24 September 2007), Reeves’ appointment was regarded as unusual—and controversial:
In a bit of hurried housekeeping before going into caretaker mode, Attorney General Ruddock is to fill four vacancies on the Federal Court, and not just the one opened up by the promotion of new High Court judge, Susan Kiefel.
In an unprecedented move, Ruddock is to overlook the logistical need to appoint two justices in Sydney. Rather, Ruddock is awarding just one new post to Sydney, and will anoint Reeves as the first Northern Territory-based Federal Court judge.
Crikey then went on to note:
More worryingly, given his membership and enthusiastic endorsement of the National Emergency Response Taskforce, and judicial reviews or challenges arising from the Intervention that might come the Federal Court’s way would have to be flicked to non-residential judges in any case.
Not so, it appears, as the matters still remain before Reeves.
Since that time, new Labor Attorney-General Robert McClelland has moved to advertising for expressions of interest for future vacancies on the Federal Court and Federal Magistrates’ Court.