The Courts are Open

3 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2013 Last revised: 23 Feb 2015

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1976


Easy access to the Courts for the speedy resolution of disputes lies at the heart of our system of justice. While such a principle seems so obvious that it is usually taken for granted, it has been both explicated and buttressed by the recent decision of Beattie J in Fitzgerald v Muldoon. The plaintiff in that case argued that although the monetary value of the case was minor it was one of serious constitutional importance. The learned Judge found that if the action was adjourned until retrospective legislation was passed, the action would be stifled at birth, and that individuals should have the right to have their case heard. Such a decision demonstrates that the members of the judiciary are not prepared to resile from their role as the third branch of government. The deference paid to our Judges does not stem from their fancy titles, their striped pants or their homburg hats. It stems from an appreciation of their historic constitutional role. To maintain not only our deference but also our respect they must exercise those powers appropriate to the judicial branch.

Keywords: Fitzgerald v Muldoon, constitution, separation of powers, judiciary

JEL Classification: K19, K41

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, The Courts are Open (1976). New Zealand Law Journal, No. 13, 1976; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 13. Available at SSRN:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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