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Kiribati judge hopes to finally have day in court

Monday 25 March 2024 | Written by RNZ | Published in Kiribati, Regional


Kiribati judge hopes to finally have day in court
Justice David Lambourne (right) with Sir John Baptist Muri, the former chief justice of the Kiribati High Court, in 2019 (Courtesy Kiribati High Court Annual Report 2018 & 2019)/24032404

An expatriate judge in Kiribati hopes he will get a chance to make his case on Tuesday over his controversial suspension three years ago.

David Lambourne, who is the husband of the opposition leader Tessie Lambourne, has faced a series of efforts from the government of President Taneti Maamau to remove him as a puisne judge, and deport him from Kiribati, where he lives with his family.

He had first appealed the government's action against him in June 2022.

Lambourne had appealed the Kiribati government decision to set up a disciplinary tribunal in May 2022 to investigate allegations against him, and to suspend him without salary.

His appeal also concerned the government's decision to try and have him deported.

That 2022 tribunal agreed two years ago to hold off on their investigation until Lambourne's appeal was heard.

But the then Chief justice Bill Hastings - a New Zealander - was suspended on the morning he was to begin hearing Lambourne's application.

Later in 2022, three Court of Appeal judges, who are also New Zealanders, were suspended after they had overturned a deportation order for Lambourne.

Last year, a formal injunction was placed on the tribunal proceeding after an application from Lambourne.

But two weeks ago, the Kiribati government made changes disbanding that body and setting up a new tribunal which, according to its chair, is not bound by the commitments made earlier.