Queensland’s second most senior judge has added to tensions between the judiciary and the government while paying tribute to outgoing Chief Justice Paul De Jersey.
Court of Appeal president Justice Margaret McMurdo has used a valedictory speech for Justice de Jersey to say he’d managed to maintain a good working relationship with the government, until recently.
The comment was made amid ongoing disquiet over the government’s decision to appoint Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody to succeed Justice de Jersey, who’ll next month become Queensland’s governor.
The government has spent weeks defending Mr Carmody’s meteoric rise from chief magistrate to chief justice, over sitting Supreme Court judges, including Justice McMurdo.
“Your appointment as Chief Justice appeared to herald an appropriately cooperative working relationship between the judiciary and the executive, delicately balancing the ever present and inevitable tension that each arm acted independently but with mutual courtesy and respect, regardless of the dominant political party in the legislative arm, at least until recently,” Justice McMurdo said, as Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie watched on.
Mr Carmody has faced calls from high-ranking judges to withdraw from the chief justice’s job, amid claims he lacks experience and is too close to the government.
Last week, Justice de Jersey called for calm and demanded his colleagues show respect to their new leader.
After 36 years as a judge, Justice de Jersey says he’ll continue to follow the courts and the legal profession with close interest from Government House.
“Though I should make this clear, I shall have absolutely no interest of being informed of even a skerrick of bar gossip … but still feel free to call us.”
The Bar Association, the Queensland Law Society and the attorney-general also paid tribute to Justice de Jersey, including his work to modernise Queensland’s court system.
Mr Bleijie said Justice de Jersey’s 16-year tenure as chief justice had spanned four premiers and nine attorneys-general.
“That capacity to work with governments and ministers of all persuasions, the wit and the character to maintain the professional dialogue – even at times of some tension – has greatly enhanced the standing of the court,” he said.
“Your wise counsel has been much appreciated.”
Mr Carmody wasn’t at the valedictory event. He’s on holidays until he takes up the chief justice’s role.
One of his detractors, Justice John Muir, also didn’t attend, but sent his apologies.
Justice McMurdo and Mr Bleijie have been at odds since March when she criticised him for only choosing one woman in 17 appointments to judicial office in the past two years.
She also accused him of breaching her confidence and publicly revealing confidential discussions about recommendations for judicial appointments.