Judicial Committees

Introduction

Heads of Bench

Inter-Bench Committees

Senior Courts Management Committees

External Committees: Criminal Practice Committee; Rules Committee; Media and Courts Committee

Introduction

Each bench has internal judicial management and support committees. In areas of mutual interest, there are also inter-bench committees comprising members from different benches. Judges also serve on a number of external committees that may include Ministry of Justice and other government officials, and non-government members. 

Heads of Bench

Heads of Bench meet quarterly and phone conferences are held monthly. Their meetings are an important forum for developing positions from which the judiciary engages with the Executive, particularly through the Courts Strategic Partnership Group (CSPG), on matters of principle affecting judicial function.

Heads of Bench consider strategic issues affecting the judiciary. Regular reports on security, information technology, and property are provided to Heads of Bench by the Ministry. The judicial committees also provide Heads of Bench with regular reports. Heads of Bench directly raise policy issues or issues of principle affecting the judiciary as a whole with the Executive.

The judicial committee structure can be expressed in diagram form as follows:

 

 

Inter-Bench Committees

Legislation and Law Reform Committee

The role of the Legislation and Law Reform Committee is to identify issues of potential interest to the judiciary in relation to proposed legislation and other proposals for change to the law  or the way in which the law is implemented.  The Committee consists of a panel of judges with representation from each of the courts of general jurisdiction and as required representatives from the specialist jurisdictions.

Legislation and Law Reform Committee Terms of Reference

Judicial Libraries Management Board

The Judicial Libraries Management Board (JLMB) is a strategic and advisory body responsible for overseeing and managing the development of information and library services. The board’s functions as established by its Memorandum of Understanding are:

  • Determination of a strategic plan for the development of judicial information resources;
  • Preparation of an annual plan outlining judicial library objectives and priorities for the financial year, including allocation of budgeted funds;
  • Devising court library standards for the management, development and maintenance of judicial library and information resources;
  • Monitoring implementation and reviewing compliance with policy;
  • Establishing collection plans for chambers and court materials, and;
  • Liaising and negotiating with the Ministry of Justice regarding financial and human resources required to implement agreed policies and guidelines.

The Institute of Judicial Studies

The principal functions of the institute are to assist in the professional development of judges, promote judicial excellence and to foster an awareness of judicial administration, developments in the law and social and community issues.

The institute was established through a Memorandum of Understanding between the judiciary and the Department for Courts in July 1998. In recognition of the importance of judicial independence with regard to judicial education, the Memorandum of Understanding records that ‘the institute will have autonomy in its affairs’.

The institute’s programmes for judges fall into three general categories. Some courses involve skills-training such as a judgment writing workshop and a settlement conference workshop. Other courses involve education on substantive law, usually in areas that have been subject to significant recent law reform. The third type of programme provides a broader context for judges to consider issues relating to the administration of justice as a whole. Such programmes include those on gender equity and judicial ethics.

The Director of the Institute of Judicial Studies is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the IJS and each bench has its own education committee. The Board of the IJS has overall responsibility for the direction of IJS. IJS has a public website .

Standing Committee on Courthouse Design

The Standing Committee on Courthouse Design was formed in 1993. Its function is to define and refine design-standards for courthouses reflecting the part that courthouses play in the life of the community and the need for their importance to be reflected in their design and appearance. Consistency of design-practice nationwide is the paramount goal.

The committee brings together the judiciary, Law Society and administrators to set design standards. Its focus is on general standards relating to user requirements, layout and furniture and it encourages practical innovation. The committee provides support for architects and courthouse-user groups to help prevent 're-inventing the wheel', and provides information gleaned from designing other courthouses and overseas experience.

Senior Courts Management Committees

Supreme Court Management Committee

The Supreme Court Management Committee meets monthly and is attended by all judges and senior Ministry representatives. The committee routinely considers a Registrar’s report and an update report from the Ministry on projects affecting the court, such as security, accommodation, and information technology initiatives.

Court of Appeal Management Committee

The Court of Appeal Management Committee is attended by the President and next senior Court of Appeal judge on a monthly basis, along with senior Ministry representatives. The meetings provide the opportunity for any judicial concerns or issues to be raised directly with the Senior Courts Group. Issues relating to judicial support can also be considered, along with issues relating to workflow and the registry.

High Court Management Committee

The committee is chaired by the Chief High Court Judge and maintains an overview of all operational matters and other issues affecting the High Court. The committee meets quarterly with the Chief Justice and the list judges from the three principal High Court centres.

Judicial Research Committee

As the judiciary receive a number of requests each year for participation in various types of research a Judicial Research Committee has been set up to consider such requests. The Committee consists of Judges from the Court of Appeal, High Court and District Court. The Committee considers all requests for judicial involvement in research involving the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court and District Court (including the Family Court and Youth Court) and makes a recommendation to the Chief Justice or Head of Bench. The Committee has prepared guidelines to assist those seeking judicial assistance with projects.

Judicial Research Committee Guidelines

External Committees

Criminal Practice Committee

The Criminal Practice Committee was established at the request of the then Chief Justice, Sir Ronald Davison, in 1988 and held its first meeting in 1989. It brings together all those professionally involved in the criminal justice system at a senior level to progress matters of importance to the operation of the criminal justice system and to inform the Executive. Members include legal practitioners, Ministry of Justice policy and registry advisers, police, the New Zealand Law Commission, Crown Law, judges and Law Society representatives.

reports

Rules Committee

The Rules Committee is a statutory body which has responsibility for procedural rules in New Zealand's four main jurisdictions; the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the District Court.

The Committee is required by s 155 of the Senior Courts Act 2016 to have 11 mandatory members: the Chief Justice; Chief High Court Judge; two other judges of the High Court appointed by the Chief Justice; the Chief District Court Judge; one other District Court judge appointed by the Chief Justice on the recommendation of the Chief District Court Judge; the Attorney-General; the Solicitor-General; the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Justice; and two barristers and solicitors nominated by the Council of the New Zealand Law Society and approved by the Chief Justice.

In addition the Chief Justice may appoint any other person to be a member for a special purpose. That person holds office during the pleasure of the Chief Justice.

The Criminal Rules Sub‑Committee was formed in 2013 to assist the Rules Committee following the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 . Following the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 and their first review, the subcommittee is currently in recess.

Current members of the Rules Committee

 

Media and Courts Committee

History

The committee was established in 2001 under the chairmanship of now retired Court of Appeal Judge Sir Bruce Robertson. The committee’s overarching purpose has been to:

  • foster understanding of the respective roles of the judiciary and news media,
  • promote the open and accurate reporting of the courts; and
  • provide an informal forum in which issues of concern to either party such as access to courts and reporting standards can be aired and resolved.

The committee was responsible for overseeing the introduction of “cameras in court” and the development of the In-Court media guidelines. [1] The guidelines were reviewed in 2014 under Justice Asher’s chairmanship resulting in some minor amendments to the rules in 2016.

Under Justice Asher’s chairmanship the committee was credited with significantly improving the relationships between media and the judiciary. Maintaining respectful but robust dialogue between senior judges and media executives continues to be a critical role for the committee.

The committee normally meets three times a year at the Auckland High Court. Most recently the committee has been focused on various educational initiatives, including organising judge-led seminars on topics such as suppression and sentencing, and grappling with issues which impact on the media’s ability to report on the courts and comply with court orders, such as the longstanding problem accessing accurate and timely information about suppression orders, and the new problems arising in this area as a result of social media and search algorithms. 

TERMS OF REFERENCE [2]

  1. Keep under review the statutory framework and various rules, guidelines and media standards which apply to news media reporting on the courts to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
  2. Provide a high level, informal and confidential forum for discussing and resolving issues of mutual concern.
  3. Provide advice to the Chief Justice and Heads of Bench about significant trends or issues which may arise from changes in communication technologies or the media environment which in the committee’s view impinge on open justice, fair trial rights and other interests including privacy in the digital age.[3]
  4. Identify and make recommendations to the Chief Justice and Heads of Bench about ways in which the court’s (and registries) processes and practices can support open justice, and assist the media fulfil their role providing fair and accurate coverage of the court’s work.
  5. Facilitate an open and constructive dialogue between the various parties with a common interest in and responsibility for open justice, including the judges,[4] registries, Ministry of Justice, the legal profession and journalists, and identify ways in which the judiciary can engage with and support educative initiatives to improve understanding of the courts and legal system.

Agreed AREAS OF SHORT TO MEDIUM TERM FOCUS UNDER TERMS OF REFERENCE

(TOR 1)

a.Undertake a review of the current in-court media guidelines and provide advice to the Chief Justice and Heads of Bench re the following:

  • Options for the phased introduction of a formal registration or accreditation system for journalists reporting on the courts
  • Whether the current arrangements for in-court filming and recording are fit for purpose or whether they need to be adapted in light of the new technologies available for capturing film and sound in court[1]
  • Whether the various application forms are fit for purpose

b.Work with media to review current approach to on-line corrections

c. Provide advice to the Chief Justice and Heads of Bench re the proposal to live stream the appellate courts

d. Advise on other steps the courts could take to make court information and hearings and decisions more accessible

e. Investigate ways in which the judicial communications team could work with judges to identify matters of significance/high public interest, especially civil and judicial review in advance to assist media plan and resource coverage

(ToR 4)

From time to time produce “best practice” advice to assist judges dealing with matters such as in-court media applications, and applications for access to court documents and suggest process improvements for the registry for consideration by the CJ and Heads of Bench (ToR 5). 

Liaise with the NPA and RNZ representatives on the Media and Courts Committee re the possible extension of the $1million Local Democracy Reporters pilot to a court-reporting pilot scheme. 

Stay abreast of and provide advice to the CJ in relation to any Crown response to the issue of breach of suppression orders by search algorithms. 

(ToR 5)

Formalize the existing ad-hoc education / court familiarization and education sessions into a more structured programme with involvement of the Bar Association, Criminal Bar Association, NZLS and ADLS (and other legal education providers such as LexisNexis).

Current members of the Media and Courts Committee  

[1] In 1991 the Courts Consultative Committee (CCC), chaired by the then Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, commenced discussions about the introduction of expanded television media coverage in courts. 

[2] Confirmed at November 2019 meeting of Committee

[3] A recent example of this would be the advice the committee provided to the CJ re the breach of suppression orders via predictive search algorithms which was subsequently brought to the attention of the Solicitor-General.

[4] Including other judicial committees whose terms of reference and work programmes may have implications for open justice.