District Court judge faces removal over ‘unacceptable’ delays

Judge Maiden, who was appointed to the bench in March 2012, has been the subject of two internal inquiries by the independent Judicial Commission.

The first inquiry in 2014 found two complaints made by lawyers about his “in-court treatment” of them were substantiated. However, the Judicial Commission concluded the matters did not warrant parliamentary consideration of his removal because he was suffering at the time from an “under-treated” and longstanding depressive disorder.

Judge Maiden was referred to the Judicial Commission for the second time by District Court Chief Judge Derek Price in February 2017. Chief Judge Price asked the commission to investigate whether Judge Price “may have an impairment that affects the performance of his judicial duties”.

A conduct division of the commission – Court of Appeal judge Robert Macfarlan, acting Supreme Court judge Arthur Emmett and former NSW police commissioner Ken Moroney – upheld eight complaints against him.

They concluded Judge Maiden did not “have the personal characteristics that would enable him to perform satisfactorily in the future duties of a District Court judge”.

The conduct division concluded a complaint of “unacceptable delay” in delivering judgments was substantiated and said the seriousness of this apparent departure from “proper judicial conduct” was clear from “the absence of any particular complexity in the cases”.

The conduct division found Judge Maiden failed to adhere to an undertaking in 2014 to report to the chief judge on a regular basis about his “general wellbeing and mental health condition”.

This included repeated occasions on which he failed to reply to questions from the chief judge about delays, where assistance was offered. A note from his clinical psychologist recorded Judge Maiden said he was “not replying to boss’ emails/letters … giving him the two fingers”.

Judge Maiden also failed to undergo psychiatric examination as required by the Judicial Commission, the report said.

The conduct division said they did “have any confidence that Judge Maiden will in the future focus on the performance of his judicial duties rather than take an unreasonable approach in defiance of legitimate authority, as he did in his dealings with the Chief Judge”.

The conduct division said it did not conclude that a psychiatric or medical impairment significantly affected the performance of Judge Maiden’s duties.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said on Wednesday that he anticipated “Parliament will consider the matter when Parliament resumes”.

“In the past, these matters have been dealt with by way of conscience vote,” Mr Speakman said. “Judge Maiden remains on leave.”

Mr Speakman said the Judicial Commission was “responsible for examining complaints regarding judicial officers, independently of the NSW Government”.

Michaela Whitbourn is a legal affairs reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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