Judge John McGill set aside all the orders made by Magistrate Suzette Coates, saying every proposition of law stated by her during two days of hearings was wrong.
Judge John McGill set aside all the orders made by Magistrate Suzette Coates, saying every proposition of law stated by her during two days of hearings was wrong.

Judge slams magistrate for ‘petulant bullying’

A DISTRICT Court judge has slammed a Brisbane magistrate for her "petulant bullying'' in a civil case, her numerous errors of law and a breach of natural justice.

Judge John McGill set aside all the orders made by Magistrate Suzette Coates, saying every proposition of law stated by her during two days of hearings was wrong.

He said magistrates could not be expected to have the same degree of legal expertise as High Court or District Court judges.

"But it is reasonable to expect that they will know some law,'' he said.

In his judgment, Judge McGill said the only way to do true justice to the parties would be to order Magistrate Coates to pay all the costs of the District Court appeal and two Magistrate Court proceedings.

"But I cannot in law make such an order,'' Judge McGill said, in the scathing appeal decision on Monday.

District Court Judge John McGill.
District Court Judge John McGill.

 

Ms Coates had made orders during two pre-trial hearings in a case involving a claim for repayment of money allegedly lent to two people in 2008, 2014 and 2015.

Judge McGill referred to Magistrate Coates's "infelicitous language'' and her clear breach of natural justice, by refusing to hear submissions before making a "fatally flawed'' costs decision.

He commented on the Magistrate's "persistent failure'' to conduct herself in an appropriate manner as a judicial officer.

"I have already referred to a number of comments by the magistrate which illustrate this point, demonstrating her general attitude of petulant bullying,'' Judge McGill said.

He said the magistrate was quite wrong, as a matter of law, to tell the plaintiff that the 2008 debt claim was statute barred at law.

According to Judge McGill, the magistrate was also wrong to say a magistrate had no power to make an order for equitable compensation, after she said it was "some fantasy land, surely''.

Judge McGill said when told that a settlement between the parties had fallen over, Magistrate Coates inappropriately asked: "Which of the clients has got the cold feet?''

When the plaintiff asked if he could apply for costs, Magistrate Coates said: "So if you think you're up for costs, you would be dreaming, but have a go, because you obviously believe this is the have-a-go-jurisdiction.''

Judge McGill also criticised the Magistrate's comment that parties never got what they wanted from civil litigation, saying it could appear to be prejudgement by a magistrate.

At one stage Magistrate Coates told the plaintiff's counsel: "Please don't tell me how to suck my eggs in the civil jurisdiction''.

When the lawyer queried the expression, Ms Coates said: "Stop flaffing and foofing …''

Judge McGill transferred the civil case to the District Court.



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