A senior judge has complained to the Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates about comments made against him by a fellow judge in a ruling in the case of deported Fiji Times publisher Evan Hannah. Judge Filimoni Jitoko wrote that the remark made by Justice John Byrne’s in paragraph 18 of the ruling “is extraordinary, if it were not absurd and outrageous.”In a letter to Justice Gates, Justice Jitoko said: “I have just read the John Byrne’s ruling in the Hannah Stay Application. I refer particularly to his observations on how the proceedings were handled administratively.
“First why did he feel obliged, to ask in the ruling, was the matter referred to me in the first instance when “there were several senior judges available to hear the application.” “This statement is erroneous to say the least. The matter was first referred to Singh J. (Justice Jitend Singh) on the evening of May 1 2008. He was unavailable. “The registrar then rang me at around 9pm and after which I convened the court at my residence. The Registrar can confirm all these.
“Singh J and I were the only civil judges available that weekend. “In any case I am the most senior full-time civil judge on the bench in the country.”
Justice Jitoko said what he found most distasteful was the insinuation in paragraph 18 that questioned his personal integrity. He said he had spent 30 years of public service to the country and his integrity “is the commodity I hold dearest”. “It has never been questioned by anyone at anytime in those 30 years,” he said.
“John Byrne’s remarks have no place in a body of legal pronouncement of any sort. “It does not befit the occasion, the place, especially the time we find ourselves in. “He should have confined himself to the legal issues before him.”
Justice Gates yesterday asked that any queries on the matter be sent to him.