Vince Siemer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Vince Siemer in 2009

Vincent Siemer (born 21 August 1956) is a serial litigant, critic of the New Zealand judiciary and publisher of the website www.kiwisfirst.co.nz. He was previously a businessman and real estate broker in the United States who immigrated with his wife and children to New Zealand in 1999.

He has been sentenced to imprisonment three times in the maximum security Mt Eden Prison (in July 2007, July 2009 and again in May 2010) for contempt of court, after failure to comply with an interim injunction which forbade him from publishing information concerning Auckland insolvency accountant Michael Stiassny. Two convictions came while he was on trips out of the country and legally unrepresented in Court. The third was by an order of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Siemer was taken into custody upon his return to Auckland International Airport after each conviction. On 15 November 2012 he was in the Supreme Court again, having been convicted and sentenced for publishing a High Court judgment which denied the then-eighteen Urewera accused a jury trial, in breach of an order that it be suppressed from the public.

Early life in the United States[edit]

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Personnel Administration and Industrial Relations from St. Louis University in 1980 and a Master's degree in Business Administration from the Olin School of Business at Washington University. He was a successful real estate agent. He married his wife Jane (Chapman) in 1986. They have three children.[citation needed]

Life in New Zealand[edit]

Siemer and his family immigrated to New Zealand in August 1999 and settled in Gulf Harbour, a coastal community just north of Auckland. He became a New Zealand citizen in 2002. He purchased a majority shareholding in what would become Paragon Oil Systems Limited in 2000. He became its chairman and managing director but a conflict soon developed with another director Siemer alleged was stealing monies from the company.[1] The New Zealand Police refused to intervene, calling it a commercial dispute.[citation needed]

Siemer held a majority on Paragon’s board of directors.[2] The company's solicitors referred Siemer to Auckland commercial barrister Robert Fardell QC, who recommended the company be placed into temporary receivership to recover the assets and company funds presumed to have taken flight. Fardell had accountant Michael Stiassny appointed receiver but Siemer soon became suspicious of the arrangement. He alleged Mr Stiassny’s reports to the High Court were materially inaccurate. As this was not a typical receivership, Siemer retained signing authority on the company bank account. He refused to pay receiver fee invoices totaling $50,000 until they were supported with documentation. This stand-off resulted in Stiassny writing a letter stating he had made an error in presenting an invoice pertaining to "paramount" instead of "paragon" which was $11,000 more than was owed.[3]

Legal costs showed up on Stiassny’s report to the High Court,[4] even though his appointment did not allow for legal engagement. When confronted Fardell claimed that he had no association with Stiassny which posed a conflict.[5] The receivership was eventually revoked by the Court. Fardell then advised that Paragon and Siemer would need to sign an indemnification agreement before Stiassny would relinquish the company assets. Siemer discovered the next year that Fardell was also acting as Stiassny’s lawyer. Stiassny, in turn, was the sole trustee of Fardell’s family trust.[6]

Siemer would state later that he “suffered from a developed sense of justice”.[7] When his professional complaints against Mssrs Fardell and Stiassny went nowhere,[8] and two lawyers failed to follow through on a negligence and conflict of interest claim against Fardell, Siemer personally filed the legal claim in the High Court (in 2003.[9]

Fardell twice did offer to settle the case for $175,000 in January and June 2005. After Siemer rejected the offer, the judge ordered Siemer to pay $100,000 “security” to cover defence legal costs before a hearing would be allowed,[10] saying he considered "the plaintiffs' prospects of success are weak".[11]

Siemer increasingly worked at exposing what he claimed was a rotten underbelly within the small and insular NZ judicial community. He launched the legal news website www.kiwisfirst.co.nz to promote what he claimed to be “the three pillars of a responsible judicial system; transparency, lawful compliance and accountability”.[12]

In April 2005 Siemer posted large billboards in the central business district of Auckland directing viewers to a website,[13] that included documents from Fardell and Stiassny in the receivership debacle. That same day Stiassny obtained an ex parte injunction from the Auckland High Court to have the billboards removed and the website shut down. Stiassny filed a $1 million defamation suit the next week to keep the injunction in place. On 5 May 2005, High Court Justice Ellen France ruled Siemer had no defence of truth for what he published, adding “It is clear, and accepted by Mr Siemer, that the material on the website included material obtained through discovery in other proceedings and which is improperly publicised”. She ordered the interim injunction upheld pending trial in the defamation claim against him.[14]

Over the next two years Stiassny amended his statement of claim three times but did nothing to put the lawsuit on a trial track. Siemer increasingly appeared to flaunt his breach of the interim injunction as the months and years passed. As a consequence Justice Judith Potter ordered him to pay a fine and costs totaling $196,000 in March 2006,[15] and barred Siemer’s defence to the defamation claim until he paid Stiassny's legal costs for breach of the injunction suit.[16] Justice Potter said that "Mr Siemer's breaches of the Court injunction have been serious, continuous, deliberate and contumacious."[17] and sentenced him to six weeks' imprisonment.[18]

In January 2008, the New Zealand Solicitor-General David Collins issued contempt of court charges against Siemer seeking his indefinite imprisonment,[19] in what had previously been a civil dispute between two private parties.

Police raid of Siemer house

On 22 February 2008, the day before Siemer’s book launch, the Solicitor-General ordered a raid of between 12-20 police officers on Siemer’s home. Police seized his business and personal records, as well as all electronic equipment in his home. The search warrant was signed by a Deputy Registrar of the District Court who could not be identified by their signature. Though never charged with an offence, the Independent Police Conduct Authority informed him in June 2009 that he would need to apply to the Courts to get his property back.[citation needed]

On 8 October 2008, Stiassny and his counsel entered a courtroom where Auckland High Court Judge Mark Cooper allowed them to file yet another amended statement of claim and proceed the same day to a formal proof hearing on this new claim.[20]

In October 2008, a TVNZ crew met Siemer in Fiji to interview him and film his arrest at Auckland Airport as part of a two-segment Sunday Programme they ran two weeks later.[21]

The programme was heavily censored by station lawyers, with Presenter Ian Sinclair stating Stiassny’s lawyers issued "to us a warning if we breached the injunction they would treat it very seriously." On 6 November 2008, another High Court judge ordered Siemer bankrupted for failure to pay the $230,000 in pre-trial costs previously ordered by the Court against him.[22]

On 3 December, Siemer appeared at a New Zealand Court of Appeal hearing dressed up as Alice in Wonderland.[23] He addressed the Court as one who "fell down the rabbit hole of the New Zealand Courts"[24] where, he claimed, reality mattered little. He gave out pamphlets to the gallery containing "notable quotes" he had transcribed from his personal recording of court proceedings.[citation needed]

On 23 December 2008, Justice Cooper’s reserved judgment in the undefended defamation claim declared it was not possible for him to consider what Mr Siemer’s defence might be.[25] However, he was still able to conclude “there is no substance to the allegations Mr Siemer makes”.[26]

He took the words "Gestapo", "Hitler" and "Jewish" from unrelated publications by Siemer on his website ordered "unconditionally shut down",[27] as well as Siemer’s comment that Stiassny claimed "what a good Jew he is (no joke)" in response to Stiassny’s New Zealand Herald interview that he supported Israel because he was Jewish,[28] to support his ruling that Mr Siemer engaged in “vile, racist abuse” against Jews.[29]

In an affidavit to the Court, Siemer claimed the "good Jew" comment in proper context was a scoff parallel to the two Israeli Mossad agents released by New Zealand the previous year after conviction for New Zealand passport fraud.[30] The Judge awarded Stiassny $920,000 in damages for what he concluded was clear defamation by Mr Siemer, as well as a permanent injunction against Siemer publishing further material.[31]

In August 2009, the New Zealand Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter, after four previous refusals to allow leave to appeal. After two postponements, the appeal was heard in the new $80.7 million Supreme Court building on 4 March 2010. Robert Lithgow QC acted for Siemer. Chief Justice Sian Elias refused to disqualify herself despite being a co-defendant with Stiassny, her husband being a business associate of Stiassny and her and her husband's extensive investment in thoroughbred racing, where Stiassny is the Racing Board Chairman.[32]

In a reserved judgment issued along with a press release the Supreme Court quashed the lower court rulings and issued a new order which reduced Siemer’s sentence to three months, agreeing with Siemer’s counsel on the appeal ground that rejection by the High Court to his request for jury trial negated the six-month sentence previously imposed. In addressing the accepted appeal ground that the Solicitor-General’s prosecution was an abuse of process, the Supreme Court stated,"“We must first, however, respond to an attempt made in this Court by counsel for Mr Siemer with a view to persuading us that the High Court had erred in finding that Mr Siemer was in contempt of court. However that may be, the High Court was plainly right. The extracts from the websites which constituted the material that the Solicitor-General had said in the High Court was in breach of the injunction were provided to us in the written submissions of Ms Laracy, counsel for the Solicitor-General."[33]

A recall application was made asserting that the unsworn submissions used by the Supreme Court to order committal of Siemer to prison were not evidence. The application included evidence the website extracts relied upon in those submissions had been materially altered. The Supreme Court’s recall rejection was as brief as it was quick: "The appellant’s application to recall this Court’s judgment [2010] NZSC 54 raises no matter which has not previously been considered in relation to the appeal and is dismissed."[34]

Vince Siemer was imprisoned as he arrived on a flight from the United States on 29 June 2010. A civil and political rights complaint was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva the same day, citing Mr Siemer had exhausted all domestic remedies in New Zealand to preserve his liberty. The United Nations Human Rights Treaty Division formally accepted the complaint on 5 July 2011 and requested a government response.[35]

A writ of habeas corpus application on his behalf was heard 30 June 2010 in the Auckland High Court and was dismissed. Justice Christopher Allan, in ruling the application was misconceived, stated "Indeed, merely to embark on the process of reviewing the judgment of (the Supreme Court) would be to countenance an abuse of process."[36]

In August 2010, the New Zealand Herald published private emails between the former president of the New Zealand Bar Association and a retired Court of Appeal Judge in which the men called Siemer a “crackpot” and “shithead” and the former Bar president accused the retired judge of being a source for one of the exposes on judicial scandal published on Siemer’s website. The emails were excerpted from a defence affidavit in a court challenge initiated by Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson to stop an investigation into allegations against him of conflict of interest by the NZ Judicial Conduct Commissioner.[37] The emails had been redacted with the approval of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner to omit references to Supreme Court Chief Justice Sian Elias’ involvement, including one paragraph directly before the former president informed the retired Judge, "I do regard Sian as a close friend and I will always put friendship and loyalty above concerns about the ‘system’.[38]

In December 2010 the Solicitor-General sought "a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months in the first instance” for publishing a suppressed judgment which denied trial by jury to the 18 accused in the Operation 8 prosecutions.[39] The suppression order Siemer was being prosecuted for breaching had been lifted the day before[40] but the reasons for denial of jury trial remain suppressed. After a two-day trial in June 2011 Siemer was again convicted of related contempt. At the sentencing hearing on 2 September 2011 the Crown conceded they could find no precedent in English law where imprisonment had been ordered for non-party breach of an order suppressing a criminal judgment and that no harm had been caused by the breach. The Solicitor-General still argued prison was appropriate, claiming this case was unique due to the deliberate nature of the breach and the “recidivist” nature of Siemer’s offending. After a brief recess the full bench handed down a six-week prison sentence, then immediately stayed the order pending appeal to the Court of Appeal.[41]

In July 2012 it was reported that Siemer was arrested for disorderly conduct and intoxication on a trip to Nashville, Tennessee for chasing a tow truck. The charges were 'retired' the following day, as reported in the Nashville City Paper.

Timeline of court action[edit]

  • October 2003: Vince and Jane Siemer filed professional negligence claim against Robert Fardell QC.
  • April 2005: Stiassny obtained interim injunction preventing publication by Siemer of receivership documents and Serious Fraud Office complaint evidence. A week later Stiassny filed a million dollar defamation lawsuit against Siemer.
  • December 2005: NZ Court of Appeal upheld interim injunction.
  • March 2006: Auckland High Court Judge found Siemer guilty of gag injunction breach and ordered $196,000 in fines and damages against him.
  • April 2007: Court of Appeal upheld injunction and conviction against Siemer for breaches. Court of Appeal claimed it did not have time to hear and consider legal arguments on the record $196,000 costs awarded in an interlocutory application, falling back on the assumption that judicial discretion in this regard must be accepted.
  • 19 April 2007: Auckland High Court Judge struck out Siemer’s statement of defence to defamation claim.
  • 12 July 2007: Supreme Court dismissed appeal of conviction ahead of hearing.
  • 12 July 2007: Auckland High Court Judge sentenced Siemer to six weeks prison for breach of the gag injunction, ordered a further $50,000 in costs and debarred Siemer from defending the defamation claim filed in April 2005.
  • January 2008: The New Zealand Solicitor-General filed a separate contempt application asking for Siemer’s indefinite imprisonment for continued breach of the April 2005 interim injunction.
  • July 2008: A full bench of the Auckland High Court sentenced Siemer to another six months prison for breach of the gag injunction.
  • July 2008: Court of Appeal upheld striking out of Siemer’s defence to defamation claim.
  • August 2008: Siemer appealed to the Court of Appeal on double jeopardy and improper denial of trial by jury grounds.
  • 17 October 2008: Supreme Court rejected Siemer’s application (SC63/2008) for stay of prison sentence pending appeal.
  • 22 October 2008: The Court of Appeal allowed Siemer released from prison on bail pending his appeal.
  • 19 November 2008: Supreme Court rejects Siemer’s application (SC62/2008) against strike-out of his defence in the defamation claim.
  • March 2009: Court of Appeal upheld six-month prison sentence. Siemer immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • 1 March 2010: New Zealand Supreme Court rejected application by Siemer’s Counsel that Chief Justice Elias disqualify herself for apparent conflict of interest and bias.
  • 4 March 2010: New Zealand Supreme Court heard appeal SC48/2009 in the new Supreme Court building, Wellington.
  • 20 May 2010: The Supreme Court released reserved decision, quashing the lower court rulings. In its place the Court issued a new order sentencing Siemer to 3 months prison.
  • 11 June 2010: The Supreme Court rejected application to recall its order of imprisonment.
  • 29 June 2010: Complaint alleging State breach of Articles 9.1 and 19.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights filed with the United Nation Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 2 July 2010: High court rejects writ of Habeas Corpus, stating such challenge to a sentence imposed by the Supreme Court of New Zealand is an abuse of process.
  • In December 2010, the Solicitor-General sought against Siemer “a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months in the first instance” for publishing a suppressed judgment which denied trial by jury to the 18 accused in the Operation 8 prosecutions. The suppression order Siemer was being prosecuted for breaching had been lifted the day before but the reasons for denial of jury trial remain suppressed.
  • In June 2011 Siemer was again convicted of related contempt. At sentencing 2 September 2011 the Crown conceded no precedent in English law could be identified where imprisonment had been ordered for non-party breach of an order suppressing a criminal judgment, then conceded no harm had been caused by the breach. The Solicitor-General argued that prison was appropriate, claiming this case was unique due to the deliberate nature of the breach and the “recidivist” nature of Siemer’s offending.
  • 2 September 2011: Siemer sentenced to six weeks prison for breach of an order suppressing a criminal judgment in the infamous Operation 8 trial of 18 New Zealand, largely indigenous, defendants. Charges against 14 of the accused were dropped the following week. Sentence was immediately stayed pending an appeal to the NZ Court of Appeal (set for 1 February 2011).
  • 15 November 2012: Appeared in the Supreme Court appealing conviction of contempt on the legal question of whether judges have 'inherent power' to suppress criminal court judgments. This was later amended to include a second hearing on 15 February 2013 concerning limitations on defences in breach of secret court orders.

Publications[edit]

  • “The Rock, an intimate and personal account from inside New Zealand’s most notorious prison” Auckland: Spartan News Limited 2008 ISBN 978-0-473-13214-9

National Television News Coverage[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seimer [sic] v Paragon Oil Systems Ltd (2001) 9 NZCLC 262,693
  2. ^ 2nd Affidavit of Vincent Ross Siemer to the New Zealand Supreme Court, 1 April 2009, para. 9
  3. ^ High Court CIV2005 404 1808, 4 April 2001 letter from Michael Stiassny to Vince Siemer
  4. ^ Receiver’s Second Report to the High Court dated 12 March 2001, CP 80/00, Appendix 1
  5. ^ 47.16 in Plaintiff’s List of Documents dated 11 March 2004, CIV2003 404 5782
  6. ^ CIV2003 404 5782 Siemer v Fardell, 4th Amended Statement of Claim, para. 35
  7. ^ 31 July 2007, address upon release from Mt Eden
  8. ^ Professional Conduct Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand ruled on 31 July 2002 “The Committee considered that this was essentially a civil matter and should be resolved through the Courts”. The Auckland District Law Society ruled on 26 November 2002 “The Committee carefully considered the merits of the matter and determined that there is not actionable conflict of interest”.
  9. ^ High Court CIV2003 404 5782
  10. ^ Siemer v Fardell, Judgment of Associate Judge Abbott dated 2 May 2008, para. 66
  11. ^ Siemer v Fardell, Judgment of Associate Judge Abbott dated 2 May 2008, para.62
  12. ^ http://www.kiwisfirst.com masthead
  13. ^ Sunday Star-Times, date:17 April 2005 Author: Sheeran Garry
  14. ^ Staissny v Siemer, Judgment of France J dated 5 May 2005
  15. ^ Ferrier Hodgson v Siemer HC Auckland CIV-2005-404-1808, 16 March 2006
  16. ^ Ferrier Hodgson v Siemer HC Auckland CIV-2005-404-1808, 9 July 2007, at [68] and [72]
  17. ^ Ferrier Hodgson v Siemer HC Auckland CIV-2005-404-1808, 13 July 2007, at [23]
  18. ^ Ferrier Hodgson v Siemer HC Auckland CIV-2005-404-1808, 13 July 2007, at [24]
  19. ^ "Bid to have businessman jailed". One News. 16 June 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  20. ^ Stiassny v Siemer, Judgment of Cooper J, 23 December 2008, para. 35
  21. ^ TVNZ Sunday Programme ‘Sticks and Stones’ aired 26 October 2008
  22. ^ National Business Review, 14 November 2008 'Stiassny successful in quest to bankrupt Siemer'
  23. ^ Media Law Journal
  24. ^ TV3 NEWS “Appeal Claimant Wears Alice in Wonderland Costume”
  25. ^ Stiassny v Siemer, Judgment of Cooper J dated 23 December 2008, para. 86
  26. ^ Stiassny v Siemer, Judgment of Cooper J dated 23 December 2008, para. 77
  27. ^ Minute of Chisholm and Gendall JJ, 31 July 2008, New Zealand Solicitor-General v Vince Siemer CIV2008 404 0472
  28. ^ Gibson, Anne (20 August 2006). "Stiassny's big issues". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 November 2011. 
  29. ^ Media Law Journal
  30. ^ The Guardian, originally published 16 July 2004
  31. ^ Stiassny v Siemer, Judgment of Cooper J dated 23 December 2008, para. 92
  32. ^ Solicitor General v Siemer SC48/2009 [2010] NZSC 12
  33. ^ Par.69, Judgment. Solicitor General v Siemer SC48/2009 [2010] NZSC 54
  34. ^ Minute of the New Zealand Supreme Court dated 11 June 2008 SC48/2008 [unreported]
  35. ^ United Nations Human Rights Committee Communication No.2072/2011
  36. ^ High Court Civ2010 404 3909, 2 July 2010
  37. ^ High Court, Wilson v Attorney General 2010 485 1147
  38. ^ "6 August 2010 New Zealand Herald 'Top QC feared judge would bring down Chief Justice'"http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10663907
  39. ^ Solicitor-General of NZ v Siemer CIV2010 404 8559, 22 December 2010
  40. ^ Minute of Winkelmann J, 21 December 2010, R v Bailey and othrs CRI2007 085 7842
  41. ^ Judgment of France and MacKenzie, High Court of NZ, CIV2010 404 8559, 2 September 2011