‘Plagiarist’ magistrate refuses to quit
COPYCAT federal magistrate Jennifer Rimmer has rejected a top-level invitation to “take the honourable step” and quit her $220,000 job to save further public embarrassment.
Federal Chief Magistrate John Pascoe asked Ms Rimmer to resign her job-for-life after it was revealed she had copied more than 2000 words from a Victorian colleague’s judgment in a sexual harassment case.
Mr Pascoe, concerned that public confidence in the court would be severely undermined by the controversy, told Ms Rimmer she should consider resigning and “moving on”, senior legal sources said yesterday.
But Ms Rimmer, who has alienated many of her family law peers because of her conduct in the past six years as a federal magistrate, told him she was determined to stay put.
Under the Australian Constitution, Mr Pascoe and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock are powerless to act unless Federal Parliament votes to remove her.
The Queensland Law Society yesterday confirmed there had been “a lot of complaints” lodged by solicitors about delays in Ms Rimmer’s decisions. Senior sources said there had been more complaints about Ms Rimmer’s handling of cases “than any other state or federal judicial officer”.
The scandal over Ms Rimmer has put Mr Ruddock under increasing pressure to appoint more $220,000-a-year magistrates to the Brisbane registry. “The present situation is but one symptom of an unsatisfactory attitude on the part of the Federal Government to the federal judiciary, particularly in Queensland,” Bar Association president Peter Lyons, QC, said.
“There has been a failure to provide adequate resources to the federal magistracy in this state. Further, the federal attorney-general makes appointments to the courts without adequate consultation about the suitability of potential appointees.
“Nor is there anything like sufficient recognition of the obvious requirement that a person appointed to judicial office must have extensive experience in the conduct of litigation.
“It is to be hoped that this unfortunate affair will lead the Federal Government to a greater recognition of its responsibilities.”
As part of a further briefing on the embarrassing fallout over Ms Rimmer’s plagiarism of another magistrate’s judgment, Mr Ruddock yesterday met Mr Pascoe, who wants more staff appointed to the Brisbane bench where the four existing magistrates sometimes sit as late as 8pm to hear cases.
The Brisbane registry, Australia’s busiest, is going to have a heavier workload in coming months with more duties and complex cases being allocated. Ms Rimmer, who has been sent on leave on full pay for two months to be mentored and counselled about the dangers of plagiarism, has told Mr Pascoe the heavy workload was a factor in her plagiarism of magistrate John Walters’ judgment.