Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson is to face a public inquiry by a Judicial Conduct Panel into his failure to promptly disclose he owed a six-figure sum to a lawyer appearing before him.

The move is unprecedented and could lead to a recommendation that the judge be sacked.

In his report released at noon, the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, Sir David Gascoigne, recommended to the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, that he appoint a panel to conduct an inquiry.

Judith Collins will assume Attorney-General responsibilties in relation to the complaints against Justice Wilson as he and Mr Finlayson were both partners at the law firm Bell Gully.

Sir David said there were issues and disputed facts that were best examined by a panel.

Some of these concerned Justice Wilson's strict requirement to disclose promptly and adequately to the Supreme Court whatever might be relevant and to what extent the "significant misapprehension" the court was under was the fault of the judge

The complaints arise from Justice Wilson's repeated failure to reveal he was potentially indebted to Alan Galbraith, QC, at a time when he (and the two other judges) found in favour of Mr Galbraith's clients in Saxmere v Wool Board.

The Supreme Court sent the Saxmere case back to the Court of Appeal for a new hearing after discovering that
Justice Wilson was indebted to Mr Galbraith by up to $602,000.

Justice Wilson had contributed $242,000 less than Mr Galbraith to their company, Rich Hill Ltd, and the lawyer had guaranteed the judge's personal bank borrowing of $360,000 for his share in a land purchase their company was in the process of concluding at the time of deliberations in the Saxmere case.