Magistrate retires before judgment

They say it’s better to jump before you’re pushed.

That could be the title of Magistrate Dominique Burns' autobiography!

Burns came to fame last year as somewhat of a magnet for complaints about her "lock 'em up" world view that were accrued in the three years since she was appointed to the court.

Now she's decided to retire before she was due to face a looming trial-by-Parliament.

The former Newcastle barrister was referred to the Macquarie Street jury earlier this year after a string of allegations were made against her, including that she had handed down sentences longer than the maximum allowed and improperly encouraged cops to lay more charges.


She was due to face Parliament in coming weeks after a panel run by Court of Appeals judge Anthony Payne, Drug Court judge Roger Dive and former police commissioner Ken Moroney decided there were grounds that would justify her removal from the court.

Earlier this month Special Minister of State Don Harwin started the process of hauling Burns before the Parliament, giving her until Tuesday to argue why she shouldn’t be removed.

That explanation never arrived.

What did, however, was a brief letter from Attorney General Mark Speakman to Harwin, explaining Burns had — in a surprise twist — decided to retire.

She concludes her appointment as magistrate tomorrow.

Our favourite of the allegations levelled against Burns was that she had threatened to turf one teenager into a prison cell for a few hours after he was charged with using his mobile phone and driving while disqualified, "to give him a bit of a scare".

(Burns had argued a serious car accident had left her suffering from anxiety disorder, causing her to be tougher on defendants appearing on driving charges.)

Tough justice for some, retirement for others.


Burns will not be the first to retire before facing Parliament’s judgment.

Former Local Court magistrate Barry Wooldridge left before his day in Parliament back in 1993.

So too did Ian McDougall, who had tried to resign but been knocked back, in 1998.


(The hearing into his sins was told he drove 140km/h through a 60km/h zone on his way to the courthouse, and when pulled over, announced: “You do not understand. I am Ian Lanham Ross McDougall, magistrate.”)

Then there was the former Supreme Court justice Vince Bruce who addressed Parliament in 1998 after being criticised for delaying the delivery of judgments, revealing he was suffering from depression. He managed to keep his job.

(“There is no dispute that Winston Churchill suffered from depression, that Albert Einstein suffered from depression, that Ernest Hemingway suffered from depression,” he said.)

And just to show not even the jury on these matters is without flaws, the then-Liberal MP Max Willis was forced to resign after being filmed drunk during that exact debate in Parliament.


How’s this for an awkward lunch arrangement?

We spotted some of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s key backers holding a low-key election campaign celebration in Rockpool Bar & Grill on Tuesday.

At the table: Pacific Blue Capital boss and Morrison’s party conference president Scott Briggs,  Morrison’s former chief-of-staff turned Downer Group government relations chief Sasha Grebe, and one of Morrison’s local lieutenants Nick Campbell, who runs Nexus Public Affairs.

But who was at lunch not a metre away?

None other than former Labor communications minister Stephen Conroy, a close confidante and major backer of Bill Shorten, whose prospects (presumably raised by himself) for a post-election appointment to Washington DC have now been dashed.

We would say one table looked far happier than the other.

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Having sorted out one election — with the quick elevation of Anthony Albanese to the federal leadership this week — Labor still has two contests before it.

It’s not just the NSW Labor leadership race between Jodi McKay and Chris Minns that needs to be finalised, but also the replacement of the most powerful head office gig for the party’s Left faction — more important now than ever with the rise of their St Albo.

With former NSW Labor assistant general secretary Rose Jackson now firmly in the Upper House, the work is being done by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s George Simon.

We hear Simon will put himself up to permanently take the job as NSW Labor boss Kaila Murnain’s offsider once nominations open on Monday.

No other contenders have come forward as yet.

And it might be somewhat of an upgrade for Simon, who we’re told has spent the past week in a Western Sydney warehouse scrutineering for the final undecided seat — the electorate of Macquarie in the Blue Mountains, held by Labor MP Susan Templeman.

Last night she had pulled just a few hundred votes ahead of Liberal candidate Sarah Richards.