A recent article by Henry Ergas concerning a decision by the NSW Land and Environment Court on the Rocky Hill coalmine contains a number of serious unsubstantiated allegations against a judge.
The article claims that a sitting judge has not dispassionately applied the law but started from the premise that coalmining is undesirable, effectively pre-judging the case. It ends by implying that the judge’s reasons for decision are not his real reasons, but rather “figleaves” designed to cover up the judge’s own biases, prejudices and personal commitments.
This allegation would be a grave breach of the judge’s duties if it were true, and to have this published without evidence in a national newspaper is very disappointing.
The Judicial Conference of Australia takes no issue with people in the community debating judges’ decisions and criticising them if they wish. That is what reasons are for – so people can follow the reasoning process (and criticise it if they find it wanting). But the article in question went much further than that.
The JCA is most concerned that serious allegations of impropriety and dishonesty have been made against a judge for which the author has offered no basis other than the fact that he doesn’t like the logic of the judge’s reasoning.
Justice Judith Kelly
Judicial Conference of Australia