Reality has caught up with the Federal Court’s Chief Justice, Michael Black — or at least one of his junior judges. John Reeves, currently Darwin-based, from 1 July will now serve on the bench based permanently in Brisbane.
As Crikey reported exclusively (24 September 2007), the appointment of John Reeves as a Darwin resident judge in the Federal Court 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.
As Crikey pointed out at the time, Reeves — who served the Howard Government as part of the group overseeing the Northern Territory Intervention — would have trouble maintaining himself in Darwin. Not only is the case load in the Territory about a fifth of that of Federal judges in Sydney and Melbourne, he would have trouble avoiding potential conflicts of interest. And that’s exactly what has happened. Reeves has repeatedly had to step aside from local matters in which he had previously acted for one party or the other.
John Mansfield, the Federal court judge who previously sat in Darwin on a regular basis will resume those duties, though Reeves will still hear a limited number of Territory-based matters.