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Is Professor Matthew Palmer incompetent and totalitarian?

© Peter Zohrab 2007

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In considering whether to issue its own Certificate of Character to ease the admission of a particular candidate as a barrister and solicitor at the High Court, the Wellington District Law Society takes into account the opinion of the Dean of that candidate's former Law School with regard to his/her suitability.

When I failed to gain a Certificate of Character from the Wellington District Law Society (apparently partly because of whatever it was that the Dean of my former Law School had told, or failed to tell, that Society) I wrote to the then Dean, Professor Matthew Palmer, and asked him for clarification.

His reply was as follows:

It seems to me self-evident that the reason that the Wellington District Law Society asks for input from a candidate's Law Faculty is that it wants to know how the candidate behaved as a student. A Professor of Law has not necessarily ever been a practising lawyer, and so has not himself ever had to pass a character test. Therefore, one would expect that what a Law Professor thought of a candidate's webpages would be totally irrelevant to his task of reporting on that candidate to the Wellington District Law Society.

More importantly, Professor Palmer is a specialist in Public Law, of which Human Rights and Civil Liberties are a very important part. I would have thought that a competent, non-totalitarian Professor of Public Law would realise that refusing to endorse a candidate for the legal profession on the basis of the views of that candidate was a gross infringement of that candidate's rights and liberties. The manner in which I expressed my views on my websites would, on the other hand, be a legitimate and legal issue for him to comment on -- if that came within the scope of what the Society expected the Dean to comment on (which I doubt). Consequently, I have grave suspicions about whether Professor Matthew Palmer is incompetent and totalitarian.

The Victoria University University of Wellington student newspaper, Salient has run three or more articles about me over the years. The above issue (March 27, 2006) included an article about my failure to get a Certificate of Character from the Wellington District Law Society, which included a comment from Professor Matthew Palmer which appeared to cast doubt on my so-called "integrity". If so, it seems to be defamatory.

Assuming that he was not misquoted or quoted out of context, I would like to quote here the relevant part of the definition of the word "integrity" which occurs in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (10th edition, revised):

the quality of having strong moral principles.

It is simply absurd to maintain that my views, or even the way that I express them, have anything whatsoever to do with whether or not I have strong moral principles -- apart from emphasising that I am not prepared to exercise self-censorship in order to pander to what some people seem to think is a totalitarian and politically corrupt legal profession. Surely that is a demonstration of totally unparalleled integrity!?

I insist on thinking that it is possible to take the optimistic view that the legal profession is devoted to upholding the Rule of Law, which includes Human Rights and Civil Liberties. However, I was the founding Secretary of the New Zealand Men's Rights Association (as it was then called), and the founding President, Michael Bott, is now a barrister. I have been told by a mutual friend that he has "had to" play down his Men's Rights views in order to be a lawyer, and, in fact, I do not think that he does any Men's Rights legal work at all. On the other hand, Women's Rights lawyers seem to be two a penny.

Why is it that a Men's Rights lawyer is not allowed to exist, but Women's Rights lawyers are commonplace?

Is New Zealand a democracy, and -- if not -- what are we going to do about it?

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Peter Douglas Zohrab

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27 July 2015

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