A public ceremony will be held next month to welcome Queensland’s controversial new chief justice, after he was sworn in at a private event on Tuesday.
A public ceremony will be held to welcome Queensland’s controversial new chief justice, following a withering attack from respected corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald.
Tim Carmody was privately sworn in as the state’s 18th chief justice on Tuesday morning, as the Newman government’s top judicial choice continued to stir the anger of senior legal figures.
As Mr Carmody prepared to take an oath Mr Fitzgerald, who uncovered police and political corruption during the 1980s, described him as “totally unsuitable” for the job.
“The damage to the courts and the independence of the judiciary will be irreversible,” he said on Tuesday.
Chief Justice Carmody was promoted only nine months after he was sworn in as chief magistrate, and had never been a Supreme Court justice.
Sitting and retired judges and the Bar Association of Queensland have accused him of being too close to the government.
He was sworn in at Brisbane’s court complex on Tuesday morning in the presence of his wife Robyn Carmody, their three children and a judicial registrar.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Premier Campbell Newman were absent.
Three hours later, the Supreme Court of Queensland’s principal registrar Julie Steel announced a public welcoming ceremony would be held on August 1.
Mr Newman said he hoped a public ceremony would be held, but disagreed with Mr Fitzgerald’s views.
“Chief Justice Carmody has many, many supporters: the law society, many learned judges, QCs, people from the community, all sorts of people have come out and backed him very strongly,” he told reporters.
“So, I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to disagree with that.”
Retired Supreme Court justice Jim Thomas said a private swearing had only happened twice in Queensland’s history, the last time in 1917.
“Very, very unusual indeed,” he told ABC radio.
“Obviously a conscious decision was made not to run the risk of having a large ceremony, and a series of speeches that might end up being embarrassing as well as the spectacle of hardly anybody turning up.”
Mr Fitzgerald’s criticism comes a day after he met privately with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.
Mr Seeney instigated the meeting after Mr Fitzgerald last month said the government had shown its disregard for democracy and good governance with attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, among other things.
The deputy premier said he wanted a chance to explain that he shared Mr Fitzgerald’s concerns “that Queensland should not go back to the 1970s” and to show the government was committed to open and accountable government and robust anti-corruption measures.
But Mr Fitzgerald on Tuesday said his views remained completely unchanged after the meeting.
Mr Seeney described it as a friendly and frank encounter, but would not say exactly what was discussed.
“I came away with much better understanding of Mr Fitzgerald’s views and shared some of my own, which demonstrate our government’s commitment to openness and accountability,” he said.