With one fellow judge refusing to sit on cases with him, and another who secretly records a private conversation and embarrassingly reveals his real thoughts, Tim Carmody is not exactly the most popular Chief Justice that Queensland has ever known.
The only person who seemed reluctant to admit this is Carmody himself, who has reportedly said that there are no strained relations between himself and the other judges. Carmody went on to say:
“No, I don’t think I’m under any pressure from any other judges, I’ve got a great amount of respect for those judges”.
Unfortunately for Carmody, his sincerity was undermined when a secret recording on the smartphone of Justice John Byrne revealed that he collectively referred to judges as “scum.”
But now it seems that Carmody is ready to quit after just eleven months in the job. He recently released a statement saying that he’s informed the Attorney General of his offer to resign in mid-April.
How are Queensland judges removed?
Removing judges from office both at a state and federal level is notoriously difficult and rare.
In Queensland, as in NSW, judges may only be removed for misbehaviour or incapacity under section 61 of the Constitution of Queensland 2001. In Queensland, this misbehaviour must be found by a tribunal established under the Act, and constituted of at least three members.
And even if the misbehaviour is proven by the tribunal, a judge can only be removed either by the Governor in Council or on an address of the Legislative Assembly if the legislative assembly accepts the findings of the tribunal.
So far, the Queensland government has made it clear that they do not want to get involved in the removal of this unpopular judge, meaning that without a resignation, there would be no other way for Carmody to be replaced.
Because of this, his resignation has been welcomed by many.
The unpopular Carmody
Despite only occupying the top job since July 2014, Chief Justice Carmody wasted no time making himself unpopular with members of the judiciary, legal profession and the general public.
The controversy started even before Carmody was sworn into office in July. Back in June, when the announcement was made by Former Premier Campbell Newman, the Queensland Bar Association President Peter Davis resigned over the appointment.
Carmody was appointed straight from Chief Local Court Magistrate to Chief Supreme Court Justice, despite never having served in the Supreme Court. This was contrary to the normal practice of appointing existing Supreme Court Justices.
The appointment was also criticised on the basis that Carmody was closely aligned with the Newman government.
And when Carmody took office on 8 July, it was done in private – which was the first time this occurred in almost a century. The secret appointment was reportedly to avoid any public display of no confidence by other judges. And not a single Supreme Court Justice attended his welcoming ceremony in August.
And the controversy didn’t end once in office – in fact, it was just beginning. Carmody has been under criticism for his heavy-handedness in the controversial motorcycle club consorting cases – even going so far as sending an email to the 88 Queensland Magistrates stating that members of motorcycle clubs should be refused bail. This led to criticism for interfering with the judicial independence of the magistrates.
His interference with the court system got other magistrates, defence lawyers and even prosecutors offside. Police prosecutors were even told that they were no longer to handle bail applications, which would instead be taken over by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
And that’s not the end of it – Carmody even got Court of Appeal President Justice Margaret McMurdo off-side during the Daniel Morcombe murder case, because of a perceived bias against the defence. He had met up with a child protection campaigner during the trial and had sat in on the case, despite defence objections.
The judge that doesn’t want to hear cases
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the most important part of a judge’s role is to preside over cases – but apparently not where Chief Justice Carmody is concerned. Since February this year, he removed himself from all hearings on the calendar and no one knew if he intended on sitting again.
By March, Supreme Court Justice Alan Wilson said during his retirement speech that Carmody’s appointment had plunged the Queensland courts into crisis. Former judges also openly criticised Carmody’s bizarre conduct.
And although Carmody has indicated that he will resign, he has made it clear that it will be on his terms. Resignation will be conditional upon things happening his way: what he calls a clear and meaningful reform framework.
Of course, Carmody evidently sees himself as a martyr in the cause of modernising Queensland in all of this, saying that: “those resistant to change and modernisation have made it their primary foal to force me out, seemingly at all costs.”
It seems that, after all the controversy, Carmody now sees the writing on the wall, stating: “it is not tenable for me to continue as Chief Justice in the circumstances.”
There are a lot of people out there that couldn’t agree more.