Jun 13, 2014

The astonishing rise of Tim Carmody, Newman’s favourite judge

Queensland judge Tim Carmody has been appointed Queensland Supreme Court's Chief Magistrate. Not only is the appointment unprecedented, it has some wondering whether his promotion is due to his support for the Newman government's controversial anti-bikie laws.

Tim Carmody is the luckiest man in the Australian legal world this morning. Although he was appointed Queensland’s District Court Judge and Chief Magistrate by the Newman government only last September, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced Carmody as the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court yesterday. In leapfrogging sitting judges on Queensland’s District Court and Supreme Court, as well as senior members of the bar and Queensland members of the Federal Court, Carmody’ s rise is unprecedented in recent memory in any jurisdiction in Australia. Not only is it unprecedented -- the position of chief justice in each state and territory is generally filled by a senior advocate or a judge from the Supreme Court -- but it is a troubling appointment because it appears to reward Carmody for his controversial support of the Newman government’s draconian anti-bikie laws. In November last year Carmody issued an edict that severely restricted the right of persons charged under the anti-bikie laws making applications for bail. Carmody’s edict meant that only two bail applications would be heard each day and in only one court in Brisbane. Bikies were being singled out for less favourable treatment when it came to access to bail. This announcement was criticised by prominent lawyers such as Bill Potts, a leading criminal lawyer in Queensland, who observed that the "public are going to perceive the courts themselves and the Chief Magistrate has become politicised". Carmody’s edict followed up an email he sent to all magistrates that stated: “membership of a gang prone to resort to violence as a dispute resolution method can increase the risk of future dangerousness to the point of unacceptability and disqualify an applicant from bail even if there is no flight or other risk”. It was a view that apparently Attorney-General Jarrod Bliejie supported despite the fact that Carmody appeared to be telling his colleagues how to deal with cases involve members of bikie gangs. Then in January this year Carmody told newly appointed magistrates not to "meddle in the administration of enacted laws by the executive and departments of state". He appeared to be running the line of the Newman government, which is that the courts ought to fall into line with government objectives. Queensland’s former solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff says the consequence of Carmody’s statements and conduct “is that his impartiality as between citizen and government has been called into question. He is now seen by many reasonable people as political.” The appointment of Carmody as Chief Justice yesterday does looks like a case of a politically sympathetic judicial officer being elevated by government. And Carmody appears to have undermined his claims of being fiercely independent by saying that one of his priorities was to ensure court decisions were more in line with reasonable community expectations. This is a phrase often used by conservatives to slate judges as being too soft on crime. Carmody has hit back at his critics in The Courier Mail
"'Because of the source of the criticism it couldn’t be ignored and I knew that it would be something that the community was concerned about and they would want to be able to reconcile the appointment with the criticism,' Justice Carmody said. "'I certainly took it into account. I weighed it up and in the end I decided it was unfounded, it was wrong. I can do this job. I will do this job. "'I shouldn’t not do this job just because somebody else says I shouldn’t.'"
The best take on Carmody’s appointment comes from the man who rid Queensland of its toxic political and legal culture, former royal commissioner Tony Fitzgerald: "People whose ambition exceeds their ability aren’t all that unusual. However, it’s deeply troubling that the megalomaniacs currently holding power in Queensland are prepared to damage even fundamental institutions like the Supreme Court and cast doubt on fundamental principles like the independence of the judiciary." Fitzgerald is a man of courage. Unfortunately, those who represent many lawyers in Queensland the Law Society grovelled at the feet of Carmody and the Queensland government in endorsing what is clearly an appointment that to any reasonable observer casts doubt on the Newman government’s commitment to judicial independence.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

14 thoughts on “The astonishing rise of Tim Carmody, Newman’s favourite judge

  1. klewso

    Sounds like the rise and rise of Terry Lewis?
    And Murdoch’s Curry or Maul – with it’s market share of our viewsmedia – has been championing it all the way.

  2. klewso

    Manuel’s “Shih Tzu” to the judiciary?

  3. Chris Hartwell

    Casts doubt? Newman has frequently styled himself an heir to Bjelke-Petersen’s legacy. This is less a casting of doubt and more a dramatic dump-trucking of it.

  4. Chrystal Fosio

    As stated by the Queensland Government (2014), the new laws targeting criminal gangs in Queensland brings forth new offences, increased penalties, enhanced powers for Police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission and stricter bail laws. The new Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 (the Act) provides stronger mandatory sentencing and the tattoo industry in Queensland will undergo rigorous identification and probity requirements through the Tattoo Parlours Act 2013 (The State of Queensland, 2014).The Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Act 2013 also encompasses new offences, increased penalties for existing offences and increased police powers (The State of Queensland, 2014).
    Dempsey (2014), Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, stated that in comparison to the same period last year (September 2013-March 2014) there has been various reductions in crime – 22% in robbery offences, 15% in assaults, 32% in unlawful entry offences, 17% in offences against property and 33% in unlawful use of motor vehicle offences per 100,000 head of population for the Gold Coast District. Criminal gang activity poses threats to the community but the reform that aims to disrupt gang organisation is done so unconstitutionally.
    As aforementioned, the reform encompasses stronger mandatory sentencing. According to Barrister Baffsky (as cited in Lewis, 2014), this breaches the separation of powers doctrine. Separating powers is the cornerstone for fair and responsible government but the new gang laws empower politicians to over-ride deliberations of the courts; giving them Supreme Court power to criminalise organisations (Lewis, 2014). Even more so problematic with the Supreme Court Magistrate’s parallel beliefs towards these legislations.
    Individuals who commit a crime are dealt with by the police under the law, but laws need to be just. These laws contradict the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ (United Nations, 2009 s11). It can make anyone a criminal and face unfair treatment and charges simply through association. People in this case, are not seen as individuals and may be subject to stereotypical-based judgement rather than an individual’s acts (United Nations, 2009). It also contradicts an individual’s right to freely associate and be included in the community and do so on public space (Canty & Castellano, 2001).
    Phil Jones, Assistant Tax Commissioner, stated that the majority of the Rebel bikie gang consisted of taxpaying wage earners (as cited in Irvine, 2013). The new laws interrupt members’ rights or other individual’s (past members’) rights to earn an honest living. Those with no criminal record are consequentially at risk of losing their vocation and instead, subject to welfare sanctions and the additional negative associations of being on the dole payment. This can be an ‘economic strain’, contradicting the government’s aims for the budget.
    Queensland’s draconian gang laws aim to drive bikies out of the state (Lee, 2013). Police powers such as those now present in Queensland can be sought after in other states and territories. This can become a draconian law battle between states. This places a great threat on normalising all of the above mentioned effects of the reform nationwide without addressing the issues of the underlying illegal activities; driving gangs further underground McKenzie, 2012).

  5. zut alors

    The President of the Qld Bar Association, Peter Davis, has now resigned. Apparently none of the Supreme Court judges have congratulated Carmody. Says it all really.

    Newman continues to stun & amaze the dopey electorate who so convincingly voted in the LNP.

  6. Glen

    Shades of Bjelke-Petersen indeed, who famously appointed (now retired Chief Justice) Dormer Andrews as Senior Puisne Judge ahead of much more senior candidates. According to Evan Whitton, The ten National Party Ministers signed the minute (appointing Andrews). The seven Liberals wrote on it: ‘This appointment does not have my support.’. The Liberal Party still had some spine in those days.

  7. Gary M

    I remember another astonishing rise in Qld. From Senior Sergeant to Commissioner to 14 years in prison.

  8. Ken Lambert

    Crikey readers, generally being of the Left can be assured that there are many LNP supporters who are disturbed by the more extreme effects of the bikie laws, and this latest Carmody appointment.

    Newman has a notably acid tongue about laywers, and I share a generally low opinion of a rapacious cohort of spivvy operators running around in the commercial and criminal law in Queensland.

    The Fingleton and Hansen and Patel prosecutions were low points in the history of justice in this fair State. That has a lot to do with incompetent prosecution lawyers and an ignorant Attorney employed by the State.

    No doubt the private school boys who make up most of the supreme court will look down on Carmody as a meatworker’s son made good as a powerful snobbery pervades the profession. That well furnished lawyer Bob Menzies was the son of a small town storekeeper, but managed well enough in the well spoken stakes of bright boys from modest backgrounds winning scholarships to distinguished careers.

    That Carmody looks and acts like a roughhead from the wrong side of the tracks might unsettle some, but should not disqualify a well furnished candidate; however giving radio and TV interviews posing as the underdog chief justice unloved by his new colleagues is sad if not fatal and cringeworthy for an office which commands dignity and respect.

    A leap from Chief Magistrate to Chief Justice without ever serving as a supreme court judge would be extraordinary appointment in any State. The overlooking of several long serving and eminently qualified supreme court judges for Carmody is bound to provoke hostility and some outrage.

    It looks like Newman sticking it up the senior legal establishment, and Carmody is probably very naive to be used as a political tool in such a case.

    Doing such a job with unloving new subordinates who regard the new boss as an unqualified political stooge would be a very big risk for Carmody and will certainly not end well.

  9. pragmatic

    ‘… generally being of the Left’.
    I never considered myself a Leftie, but cannot fathom how those from the Right can justify such behaviour. Does that make me a Leftie?
    Every citizen should be horrified at how the current crop of politicians at federal & state levels treat government as their personal play thing.
    Sure, we voted in these idiots, but the various opposition parties leave us with few options.
    The whole game has unravelled.

  10. dr felonious

    Ken – spivvy operators in the criminal law????????

    You mean the ones that don’t do legal aid cases, I assume?

    I’m not aware that there are too many of those in criminal law – that’s their bread and butter.

    I don’t think you know what you are talking about there old Ken. Criminal lawyers are the best of the bunch.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details