The National Party leader Bill English, has made a last-minute plea to the Government to change the way judges will be appointed to the new Supreme Court.
Mr English will ask Attorney-General Margaret Wilson for all politicians to oversee the selection of the first full bench of the Supreme Court, which will replace the Privy Council next year as New Zealand’s final appeal court.
Up to six judges are to be appointed to the court, probably from the Court of Appeal, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General.
However, Opposition parties say that leaving any government to have a final say on the appointment of a court’s full bench opens the way to politicising it. Ms Wilson yesterday steered the Supreme Court Bill through its final stages in Parliament, with the backing of 63 out of 120 MPs.
The Progressive Coalition and the Green Party supported Labour, while National, NZ First, Act and United Future voted against the bill.
The legislation passed despite Opposition calls for a public referendum and despite the criticism of business interests, the legal profession and Maori.
Tnew Supreme Court will begin hearing appeals from next July. The court’s first judges will be appointed over the coming months.
The Attorney-General will name the bench on the recommendation of a panel comprising the Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, QC, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and former Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves.
Mr English said yesterday that rather than rely on a panel, a special committee of MPs could discuss recommendations, which could then be endorsed by a resolution of Parliament.
He told the Herald that while the final decision would still be determined by who could command a majority in Parliament, at least the process would be more transparent.
“It would give greater legitimacy to the appointments.”
He had earlier told Parliament the appointments process was now blighted by distrust of the Government and Labour had already failed the court it so much wanted to set up.