Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

'Miss Alice' loses employment case appeal

Rob Moodie, aka Miss Alice. File photo / NZPA
Rob Moodie, aka Miss Alice. File photo / NZPA

Cross-dressing lawyer Rob Moodie has lost an appeal against a stinging Employment Court ruling that found he was "vindictive" and "vengeful" to a former employee.

Dr Moodie accepted the Court of Appeal decision and conceded there was little prospect of further appeals. But he blasted the judiciary for sticking together over the ruling.

"It's the sort of decision that is issued out of the New Zealand Court of Appeal all the time.

"Judges will not criticise each other."

In a decision released in June, Employment Court Judge Graeme Colgan found Dr Moodie had unjustifiably dismissed former employee Elizabeth Strachan and deliberately set out to ruin her career - two years after the original hearing was held.

Dr Moodie - who is also known as Miss Alice and has been known to wear Alice in Wonderland outfits to court - appealed the decision on seven grounds, including the long delay for the decision to be released, discrimination and bias.

In their decision - released today - Court of Appeal Justices Mark O'Regan, Christine French and Raynor Asher said the judge's decision to release his ruling two years after the hearing was a matter for concern.

Ms Strachan made some inquiries about when a decision would be released and Dr Moodie said this could have caused Judge Colgan to decide in her favour to avoid criticism.

The justices said that speculation was "regrettable" with no evidential basis, but the delay was "unacceptable".

Dr Moodie argued Judge Colgan's comment that it could be the final case of his career was discriminatory against his age and revealed a bias against him.

He said the comments were "unfair, mistaken, unnecessary, unreasonable, gratuitous, discriminated against the applicant because of his age, and were calculated to lower his professional and personal standing by casting him in the light of being an old codger".

However, the justices said the judge's comments needed to be seen in perspective.

"The judge did not use the term 'old codger' and we do not think a reasonable reader would infer that the judge considered that the applicant was an old codger."

Speaking today, Dr Moodie - who is in his 70s - said there were no grounds to take his case any further.

The justices "didn't have the guts" to address the long delay it took for the Employment Court ruling to be released, he said.

The decision was no surprise, but he wanted the ruling because it would make up part of a book he was writing about his "disillusionment" with the country's judiciary.

In a stinging rebuke in the original Employment Court decision, Judge Colgan said Dr Moodie had impugned Ms Strachan's reputation with the legal fraternity, and without any basis.

"It is difficult to imagine any more calculated, vindictive and vengeful attack."

Judge Colgan said Dr Moodie had a "perverse desire to bring about Ms Strachan's professional and personal ruination".

He ordered Dr Moodie to pay $57,989 in unpaid wages, $30,000 compensation and $2500 for refusing to provide a written employment agreement.

Ms Strachan began voluntarily working for Dr Moodie in late 2004/early 2005 to gain legal experience.

During 2005 there was an agreement between the pair for Ms Strachan to share in the firm's profits.

Their relationship broke down the following year when Ms Strachan discovered the practice - which she believed had run on a pro bono basis - had made $700,000 from a police employment case.

Judge Colgan found Ms Strachan had been "misled and deceived" by Dr Moodie.

Ms Strachan would not comment today but through her lawyer, Peter Churchman, said she was relieved the case was finally over.

- APNZ

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