US lawyer William "Billy" Murphy - who represents the family of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in Baltimore police custody - has agreed to be guest speaker at the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) conference.

CBA president Tony Bouchier told CaseLoad he telephoned Murphy and "he agreed straight away to speak at the conference".

Gray's death on April 12 resulted in an ongoing series of protests, civil disorder and violence in Baltimore, culminating in a state of emergency, a National Guard call-out and curfew.

Six police officers involved in Gray's death face felony charges.

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Described as one of Baltimore's most revered lawyers, Murphy is a former circuit court judge and a one-time mayoral candidate.

Known for his folksy manner and long grey ponytail, he once played himself in an episode of The Wire, the gritty crime drama about Baltimore and its institutions, from politics to drug dealing.

"We are privileged to have a lawyer of Billy Murphy's calibre come to here," Bouchier told CaseLoad.

About 300 lawyers are expected to attend the CBA conference at the University of Auckland's business school on August 1 and 2.

Justice Minister says something about police

Justice Minister Amy Adams hopes to resolve appointments to Sir David Carruthers' Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) shortly.

In a note left at the Ladies & Escorts Lounge the other day, Adams confirmed to CaseLoad that the appointments of Angela Hauk-Willis and Diane Macaskill as part-time members of the IPCA had expired but remained in force under carry-over provisions.

Justice Minister Amy Adams. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Justice Minister Amy Adams. Photo / Geoff Sloan

CaseLoad earlier asked for clarification on those appointments and that of former police officer Tyronne Laurenson (CaseLoad April 17).

[Hauk-Willis is a former deputy secretary of the Treasury and Macaskill was chief executive and chief archivist at Archives New Zealand and was previously deputy Government Statistician.]

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Former Justice Minister Judith Collins recommended the re-appointment of Hauk-Willis and Macaskill and the appointment of Laurenson in June 2014.

Adams says the appointments were not finalised because they required a resolution of Parliament and that was not completed before the election.

Adams says she met with Sir David in November to talk over his views on the appointments.

Declining to identify her proposed candidates, Adams says she has "reviewed various appointment options" and will shortly take her recommendations through the Cabinet process in preparation to taking a resolution to Parliament.

"You thought something dodgy was going on, but the Honourable Minister has come up with a perfectly plausible explanation," said Our Man At The Bar, thinking it time to re-apply for a cushy quango appointment.

"Better late than never," said The Scunner.

Good to have chums when you need them

Pals have rallied round Queen's Counsel Paul Dacre, said to be down in the dumps after making an error of judgment in the botched case against former ACT MP and Auckland mayor John Banks.

Dacre - made a QC in 2013 - prosecuted Banks on behalf of the Crown for alleged electoral return irregularity. Banks was found guilty at a judge-alone High Court trial, partly on the evidence of Kim Dotcom, Dotcom's wife and a bodyguard.

At Banks' first appeal, Dacre failed to tell the Court of Appeal of the existence of a crucial memorandum he had, which was also not disclosed to Banks' lawyers.

Banks claimed the Crown knew, but did not tell the Court of Appeal when it last year quashed his earlier High Court conviction and ordered a retrial, that its principal witness, Kim Dotcom, had changed his evidence when confronted with affidavits filed on appeal by Banks.

Paul Dacre QC. Photo / Wayne Drought
Paul Dacre QC. Photo / Wayne Drought

Banks maintained that had the Court of Appeal known the true position it would not have ordered a retrial.

In later declaring a miscarriage of justice, and acquitting Banks without the need for a retrial, the Court of Appeal agreed. (CaseLoad May 29)

It recalled its earlier judgment, saying there was a serious error of process, but one it accepted was attributable to an error of judgment rather than misconduct.

Since then there has been unfortunate and unhelpful speculation as to what might happen next.

"No lawyer should have to put up with this sort of treatment from the Court of Appeal," said one of Paul's loyal chums. ("Please don't use my name, I have my career to think of.")

"And how will Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson poking his nose in help anyone?"

"Look, it could happen to anyone, so what's all the fuss about? Paul continues to make an outstanding contribution to the law so let bygones by bygones, put this glitch behind us and move on positively."

"Agreed," said Our Man At The Bar. "What's a wee scuff on the toes of a QC's patent leather prancing pumps anyway ... A spit and wipe and it's gone..."

"You should be so lucky," said The Scunner.

From the mailbag

There's more from Fiona, of Papatoetoe, on name suppression and two-tier justice, but CaseLoad reckons this topic has done its dash until next time it arises, as it surely will.

Thank you "A", of Up North Somewhere, but your comments about Queen's Counsel Chris Hodson, fourth husband of Justice Dame Lowell Patria Goddard, fly too many red flags for our own good.

Also, your comments about "fancy lawyers" chundering on the lawn - while jolly interesting and informative - are historic and, if names were named, could cause unnecessary embarrassment.

Secret report on judicial sexuality leaked

Courts have been asked to consider offering gender-neutral judicial regalia as part of new sexuality guidelines aimed at being more inclusive.

A confidential report leaked to CaseLoad suggests courts could review judicial toilet spaces, allow same-sex partners to judicial functions and be aware of grouping judges by gender to help a more diverse range of judges feel safe.

While social attitudes to sexual diversity have become more inclusive, new judges who identify as non-heterosexual still face many challenges in the judicial environment, the report states.

"New, younger judges who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender often feel marginalised and isolated - even in the judges' common room - and experience a less inclusive judicial environment."

The guidelines have an added focus on consent, coercion and culture, but are not mandatory - meaning courts can choose to adopt the practices or not.

Lawyer liked court so much he bought it

CaseLoad is grateful to the Hokitika Guardian - which once told Kaiser Wilhelm to pull his head in - for news that well-known Dunedin lawyer Steve Turner has bought the old Whataroa Courthouse - complete with small jail - as a family crib (that's a holiday home to northerners).

The 1939 wooden courthouse on State Highway 6, some 142km south of Greymouth, sat four days a year until it was closed in 2013.

It wasn't that long ago, so a story goes, when a nimble judge scrambled through an unlocked window to open the court after a red-faced copper brought the wrong keys from Greymouth.

Once New Zealand's most remote mainland court, sittings sometimes lasted no more than 45 minutes.

Once upon a time, Whataroa Court offered a popular day out for the visiting judge, lawyers, coppers, court registrar and the odd stray journalist - sharing, as one report put it, "hearty club sandwiches and sumptuous scones topped with cream and jam".

Occasionally whitebait appeared and, as if by arrangement, the last case heard at Whataroa Court - once described as the precious jewel in the crown of the West Coast circuit - was "a whitebait matter..."

Footnote:

It seems Neil Billington, brother of jovial Queen's Counsel John Billington and regarded as New Zealand's finest blues harmonica player, has given up his day job as long-serving PR man to the Higher Judiciary, and left the building.

Neil Billington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Neil Billington. Photo / Mark Mitchell