The Honourable Robert Fisher was a New Zealand High Court Judge for 15 years and was recognised within the legal profession as a judge with an astute legal mind.
His indiscretions though by getting found out for watching 90 minutes of pornography on court computers over a two week period in the early 2000s drew the ire of Prime Minister Helen Clark. Despite a supposed independence of the judiciary, her opinion, (that he had to go) made it difficult for him to keep his job.
A couple of reviews gave him the legal clearance – he did not break the law – but to pass judgement on others while the world knows that you’re busy enjoying the sight of naked girls on the computer screen in your office didn’t really make it wise to hang around. He didn’t.
Samoa had him up there a few times a year hearing Appeal cases – a junket that seemed to suit the nearly-deads of the legal profession – getting paid to travel up to the islands in the sun must have been a hoot.
I met him in his courtroom in Samoa, walked in and sat down to listen to a case I was interested in. Arrogance and rudeness emanated from the bench as he dealt with one of Samoa’s top lawyers pretty roughly, and with little cultural understanding. I blogged about this at the time, and was quite taken aback actually.
The end result of some investigative work is that the matter being investigated will go to court – usually things are a civil matter but they are sometimes a criminal matter. Court events are a real part of our lives.
Any group of people with common heritage, values or interests generally protect their own, but they also can use and abuse each other more effectively. You can see this with nationalities who emigrate. In the late 1900s South Africans were the flavour of the moment as they attempted to get out of Apartheid. Many Kiwis would reach out to help them whereas some who had been here a little longer turned on their own – they knew and understood their own, thus knew how to best take advantage of them. Likewise with Samoans who know exactly how to play the new Samoans to town, or the Chinese. It’s a natural process, although sad.
Fights between judges are generally kept within the family but sometimes the tension can spill into the courtroom as lawyers and judges have at it. Law Society scraps can get pretty ugly as bickering and egos get their opportunity to shine.
We have real freedom when we can easily say, “My word is my bond”
In business . . . at home . . . in court! Robert Fisher is no exception. My understanding is that some were sad to see him go, but others didn’t complain. One thing I am sure of however is that an indiscretion like watching porn on a court PC, especially when the PM at the time goes public with a “Tut-tut; Gotta go!” isn’t a description of wisdom.