Those pondering the choice of retired Christchurch High Court judge Lester Chisholm to clarify if former Justice Minister Judith Collins undermined the then Serious Fraud Office director Adam Feeley, should be aware of one of the former judge's little known but significant credentials.

Mr Chisholm is one of around 700 members and associates of Canterbury's Willows Cricket Club - an exclusive bunch of worthies whose bloodlines resemble a cross between Burke's Peerage, Who's Who, the Civil List, Swanky School Alumni and denizens of the Ladies & Escorts Lounge.

Based around a Midsomer Murders-style village green pitch at fashionable Loburn - a comfy 50k Jaguar cruise northwest of Christchurch - the Willows' purpose is to encourage the best boys from good school first elevens to further their cricketing interests.

Not to mention becoming part of a jolly useful network for life.


It seems being a judge is also enough to gain entry.

Willowers ranks include knights, lawyers, judges, businessmen, sportsmen, various selfless folk of general decency - and a Lord.

They include former governor general Sir Anand Satyanand, Justice Sir John Hansen, Judge Andrew Becroft, Viscount Cobham, Jeremy Coney, Sir Hugh Blackett, Sir Ron Brierley, Francis Cooke QC (son of the famous Lord Cooke of Thorndon), Nick Farr-Jones, Sir Tim Rice, Iain Gallaway, Sir Owen Glenn, Sir John Graham, Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Graham Henry, Chris Laidlaw, Bill Mitchell, Malcolm Ellis, Justice Christian Whata, Justice Peter Penlington, Judge Dave Holderness, Tony Hughes-Johnson QC, Justice Mark Cooper, Nick Davidson QC, Justice John Fogarty, Prof Hamid Ikram, Justice Stephen Kos, Robbie Deans, Associate Judge John Matthews, Martin Snedden and Lord Butler of Brockwell, plus a host of cricketing and other sporting greats too numerous to mention.

An honorary Willower, Lord Butler, in case anyone doesn't know, is retired high-ranking British civil servant Robin Butler (76), a former Harrovian rugby blue and a Knight of the Garter who sits in the House of Lords.

[Alumni of upper-class Church of England school Harrow (which has been around since 1572) are a colourful and illustrious lot, including among their number Indian and Arabian maharajas and potentates, a dollop of British politicians, numerous judges, lords and mega-wealthy business moguls - Nubar Gulbenkian being but one.

Not many folk would know that the politically ill-fated, scandal-ridden English MP John Profumo went to Harrow, as did laconic actor and musician Laurence Fox (Detective Sergeant James Hathaway in crime drama Lewis) until he was expelled for fighting and chasing girls.

Even fewer would recall that Harrovian Joshua Strange Williams arrived in Dunedin in 1861 and was made a High Court judge in 1875.]

What's this got to do with the task facing Willower Lester Chisholm?


"Perhaps, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, "it's about the ability to clearly see the ball and play with a straight bat...Something I doubt you are familiar with..."

"Googly that," said The Scunner, pocketing a dog-eared ticket to the beer tent.

Twitter-bashing judge "friends" real journalists

Here's something to think about when wading through the weird world of political leaks, back-stabbing bloggers, dodgy media ethics, not-so-secret sources, hot denials, blame-shifting and who may, or may not, be journalists from time to time - depending on Thursday not being a wet Monday.

Back in May 2011, while commenting on super-injunctions, the now United Kingdom Supreme Court president Lord David Neuberger said social media sites such as Twitter were "totally out of control" and society should consider ways to bring such websites under control.

Photo / AP

[Super-injunctions in English law refer to a type of injunction, imposed by judges, which prevent publication of the thing that is in issue and also prevents the reporting of the fact the injunction exists at all.

Due to their very nature media organisations are not able to report who has obtained a super-injunction without being in contempt of court. Source: Wikipedia.]

Ironically, in March 2013, Lord Neuberger's comments to the BBC that legal aid cuts could make people feel they could not access justice and then take the law into their own hands, knocked troubled pop-person Justin Bieber off the top of the very Twittering stuff his Lordship wanted controlled.

Then, just the other day, Lord Neuberger told the Hong Kong foreign correspondents club judges and journalists have much in common.

He says it's because the fundamental principles of the rule of law and freedom of expression are each accorded important privileges in the interests of society as a whole - but with recent developments in the electronic world, the weight of the associated responsibilities is greater than it has ever been.

Lord Neuberger cautioned that just as judges must not abuse the privileges accorded to them because of the importance of judicial independence, so should journalists and other communicators (bloggers?) not abuse the privileges accorded to them because of the freedom of expression.

Read the full speech, The Third and Fourth Estates: Judges, Journalists and Open Justice here.

Meanwhile, in a defamation-related matter, a decision is awaited from Justice Raynor Asher (assisted by specialist defamation Queen's Counsel the delightful Julian Miles) on whether notorious WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater is a journalist and therefore not able to be compelled to disclose his sources under the Evidence Act.

Was Justice Harrison unduly precious over Orlov?

As reported last time, previously struck-off Auckland barrister Evgeny Orlov - who got up the sensitive nose of Justice Rhys Harrison - was un-struck-off by two judges of the High Court, who overturned the extreme penalty of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

The long-running case involves an acrimonious clash over how the lawyer accused Justice Harrison of behaving badly towards him and the judge's scathing complaint against Mr Orlov.

Evgeny Orlov (left), Justice Rhys Harrison. Photo / NZPA

In a judicial review, Justices Ron Young and Simon France agreed it was correct to find Mr Orlov guilty of serious disgraceful conduct - but striking him off was too harsh a penalty.

Acknowledging Mr Orlov's freedom of expression stance, Justices Young and France said lawyers of good standing would recognise the importance of freedom of expression, and not be unduly concerned or condemnatory of extravagant language, and misguided opinions, at least as long as there was no bad faith.

And while the protection afforded by freedom of speech was not absolute, free speech meant not being "unduly precious" when faced with robust or extravagant comment.

The judges reckoned that making allegations against a judge of bias, making an improper complaint to the Law Society, and making improper, inflammatory and intemperate criticisms - even without foundation - did not constitute misconduct of the striking-off kind.

Mr Orlov's offending involved only speech directed at Justice Harrison.

Because he had been struck off for eight months, no further penalty was required.
"Doesn't Rhys Harrison have a nick-name?" said The Scunner.

Seen and Heard

* Annette Sykes (53), third on the Internet Mana Party list, and specialist in Treaty of Waitangi, Maori and human rights jurisdictions, is now a Rotorua-based consultant to Kathy Ertel & Co.

Both have done well from legal aid - Ms Sykes' firm Aurere Law picking up $1,253,166 and Ms Ertel's firm getting $690,479, according to Justice Ministry figures for 2013/14 (See Stop Press below).

Annette Sykes. Photo / Mark Mitchell

* Christchurch-based firm Goldstein Ryder Ltd has started a service aimed at New Zealanders living here who have been injured in Australia.

Principal and employment lawyer Jeff Goldstein, who says they work on a "no win, no fee" basis, says the differences between compensation in Australia and New Zealand are many and varied.

In a statement he says many Kiwis don't know how much can be on offer and that payments can be made without compromising money from ACC.

Is the real Mark Ryan likely to buy a round?

High profile Australia-domiciled Blue Chip bankrupt Mark Bryers - brother of former Auckland district law society president Stephen Bryers - is plying his trade in Oz under the name Mark Ryan.

This has tickled ribs in the Ladies & Escorts Lounge.

Mark Bryers. Photo / NZPA

Mr Bryer's Blue Chip company collapsed in 2008, owing 2000 investors $84 million. He was later bankrupted and fined more than $37,000 for various financial breaches.

Associate High Court judge Jeremy Doogue told Mr Bryers the other day he must return to New Zealand in order to testify in his bid to be discharged from bankruptcy.

All well and good, but well-known employment and criminal law barrister, and former police officer Mark Ryan, of Auckland's Vulcan Chambers, is said to be less than pleased with those who now nick-name him "Blue Chip."

Stop Press

While Justice Ministry figures for the 2013/14 year show a few legal aid "millionaires" are in Auckland, Wellington and Rotorua, the taxpayer is shelling out big to provincial law firms.

The $500,000 plus bracket, with a total of $15 million, includes Aurere Law (Rotorua) $1,253,166; Cooper Legal (Wellington) $1,016,337; David Martin Stone - Te Mata Law (Auckland) $1,569,383; Families Matter Law Practice (Rotorua) $598,994; Gowing & Co Lawyer (Whakatane) $656,098; John Miller Law (Wellington) $925,400; Kathy Ertel & Co (Wellington) $690,479; Lance Lawson (Rotorua) $562,085; McCaw Lewis (Hamilton) $844,691; Morrison Kent (Wellington) $1,336,026; Rainey Collins (Wellington) $706,317; Roger Crowley (Wanganui) $516,459; Tamaki Legal (Auckland) $900,759; Tavake Afeaki - Barrister (Auckland) $688,606; Thomas Dewar Sziranyi Letts (Lower Hutt) $775,064; Tony Snell - Barrister (Hastings) $517,903; Wackrow Williams & Davies (Auckland) $733,451; Woodward Chrisp Lawyers (Gisborne) $593,314; Zindels (Nelson) $673,884.

Next Time

Are Labour-friendly wannabe judges in for a shock?