Bill Wilson (judge)
William McLeod Wilson
|Supreme Court of New Zealand|
December 2007 – November 2010 (resigned)
|Court of Appeal of New Zealand|
January 2007 – December 2007
William McLeod "Bill" Wilson QC is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. In 2010, he became the first New Zealand judge to resign after being accused of judicial misconduct. Wilson was subjected to the first report by the Judicial Conduct Commissioner, which recommended a Judicial Conduct Panel be formed. This report of the Commissioner was prematurely released to the press and subsequent media attention forced Wilson's resignation from the Supreme Court.
Wilson attended Victoria University of Wellington, where he earned LLB and LLM degrees. He worked with law firm Bell Gully and became a partner of the firm in 1971. He was a member of the Waitangi Tribunal from 1986 to 1995 and became a Queen's Counsel in 1996.
Misconduct allegation and resignation
In 2010, three complaints were made to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Sir David Gascoigne. It was alleged that Wilson had sat as a member of the Court of Appeal in which Alan Galbraith QC was representing one of the parties. The complaints alleged that Wilson had failed to disclose the extent to which he could be seen as beholded to Galbraith. The complaints stated that while Galbraith and Wilson both equally owned an equestrian business, Galbraith had put in approximately $200,000 more into the business than Wilson had. Galbraith was also a contractual guarantor on a loan Wilson had received from the bank. Wilson opposed the view that there was a logical connection behind these arrangements and a conflict of interest; however the legal threshold for recusal is "the appearance of bias", not bias itself.
On the basis of the complaints, a preliminary investigation by the Judicial Conduct Commissioner recommended that Attorney-General Chris Finlayson establish a Judicial Conduct Panel. The Judicial Conduct Commissioner publicly released the content of his recommendation before a Judicial Conduct Panel was appointed to investigate, effectively ending Wilson's ability to continue as a judge. The Judicial Conduct Commissioner's findings were subject to a successful judicial review by Wilson in the full High Court, which found the Judicial Conduct Commissioner had made several errors in law. The Court was also troubled that Wilson had been subject to the release of the report, which is envisaged to be confidential. The Court noted that Wilson had been the subject of "inaccurate publicity, apparently designed to hound him from office".
Wilson announced in October 2010 that he would resign from the Supreme Court, effective 5 November. The Ministry of Justice gave him one year's salary and per the JCC and JCP Act, his legal fees were paid for. It was reported that the government had rejected an earlier offer of Wilson to resign because the terms were unacceptable to the government. Wilson was the first New Zealand judge to resign after an accusal of judicial misconduct.
- Jock Anderson and Liam Baldwin, "Justice Bill Wilson quits", National Business Review, 2010-10-21.
- "New Judge of the Court of Appeal – Justice Wilson", scoop.co.nz, 19 December 2006.
- "Wilson appointed Supreme Court Judge", scoop.co.nz, 2007-12-21.
- Wilson v Attorney-General  1 NZLR 399 (HC).
- Phil Taylor, "Supreme Court judge to be investigated", New Zealand Herald, 2010-05-07.
- "Golden handshake for embattled judge", New Zealand Herald, 2010-10-07.
- Deborah Coddington, "Exclusive: Justice Wilson speaks out", New Zealand Herald, 2010-10-24.
- Ministry of Justice, Decision of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner in Relation to Complaints Concerning His Honour Justice Wilson, 2010-05-07.
- Claire Trevett and Phil Taylor, "Terms 'too great' on judge's first offer to quit", New Zealand Herald, 2010-10-22.