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Siemer in Wonderland

By Steven | December 3, 2008

Vince Siemer is presenting his case, by videolink from Auckland, to the Court of Appeal. He has told the judges that he has “considerable respect for the institution” of the courts. This submission is somewhat compromised, it’s fair to say, by the fact that he is dressed up as Alice in Wonderland, complete with blue frock, white apron and curly wig.

His first move was to try to get two of the judges to recuse themselves for bias.

Way to win the judges over, Vince.

The key issue, you might recall, is about his right to a jury trial before being jailed for contempt. He hasn’t got to that yet, though he has canvassed the North Korean constitution and quoted Humpty Dumpty. At the moment, Vince is revisiting his argument that he triumphed in a cross-examination in a much earlier Court of Appeal hearing, and the judges then inexplicably didn’t refer to this crucial evidence in ruling against him, and have then gone to great lengths to prevent a transcript emerging, and when they were finally forced to release it, doctored it.

I’m not getting the feeling that the judges are especially responsive to his arguments. For myself, I’m looking forward to the submissions of the amicus, Rodney Harrison QC.

Topics: Contempt of Court | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Siemer in Wonderland”

  1. virgil Says:
    December 3rd, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    I have only heard second hand reports but I understand Harrison QC effectively supported Siemer’s claim that the right to a jury trial was triggered when the sentence he was liable for exceeded that available in summary jurisdiction ie 3 months. What was your take on Harrison’s submissions.

  2. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Just – looking for something entirely unrelated – came across this quote from Justice Hugo Black, in a US Supreme Court case over contempt proceedings that followed a refusal to abide by court orders mandating desegregation:

    These defendants nevertheless, like others charged with crimes, should have their cases heard according to constitutional due process, including indictment and trial by jury. Nothing less can measure up to the kind of trials which Article III and our Bill of Rights guarantee. It is high time, in my judgment, to wipe out root and branch the judge-invented and judge-maintained notion that judges can try criminal contempt cases without a jury. It will be a fine day for the constitutional liberty of individuals in this country when that at last is done.

    United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681 (1964)

  3. Steven Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Yes, and that case indeed featured strongly in the hearing. But the issue is: are *civil* contempt cases (ones that are merely “coercive” and not “punitive” if that’s a distinction that works) to be treated differently? And if so, how do we draw the line?

  4. virgil Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Robertson J seemed to be grappling with the question of when (not if) the right to jury trial is triggered in a contempt case. A simple answer to that question might be that the right is triggered when the S-G becomes involved. Inter parties contempt could still go before a judge alone.

  5. Anne Hunt Says:
    December 5th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Even if the Solicitor-General’s original application was intended to be ‘coercive’, the judgement was ‘punitive’. “First it will punish him for his breaches…”
    After hearing the points raised by Crown Law, I believe Siemer missed a golden opportunity to hammer home his right to natual justice; that a man may not be a judge in his own cause. “A period of imprisonment is necesary to provide general deterrence so that the community understands that those who defy Court orders will receive a stern response”.
    S19B of the Judicature Act does not rule out jury trials in civil proceedings. “All other civil proceedings to be tried before Judge alone, unless Court otherwise orders”.
    I was fined for contempt – surely the Judges can’t have it both ways – treat contempt as civil proceedings and then deliver judgements which are purely punitive.

  6. ross Says:
    December 5th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I would’ve thought that the Solicitor-General might have recused himself from this entire case given that he is currently under Police invesitgation for making false statements in an affidavit.

  7. nationalblognz Says:
    December 7th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Unless he’s stood down pending that investigation there is no reason for him to not be prosecuting this case, there’s no conflict of interest. In fact if he weren’t he doing this he wouldn’t be doing his job.

  8. ross Says:
    December 8th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    With respect, NBNZ, I think you are wrong.

    I didn’t say there was a conflict of interest. Morally, Collins should step down. Your suggestion that he wouldn’t be doing his job is beside the point: someone else could be prosecuting Siemer; Collins is not irreplaceable.

    An Australian Cabinet minister recently stepped down after learning that Police were investigation an allegation concerning him. The minister, Theo Theophanous, said: “Even though I have done nothing wrong, the test for ministers in a government is rightly high.”

    May I suggest that the same test applies not just to ministers but to public officials in high office. Collins should have the nous to stand himself down and not expect others to take that action.

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