The New Zealand judge who was to decide if Megaupload’s founder should be extradited to the United States has quit the case. Judge David Harvey was forced to step down after describing the US as “the enemy”.
Harvey made the comments last week at an internet conference in Auckland. Discussing a proposed copyright law agreement between countries including New Zealand and the US, he argued that American pressure could mean changes to New Zealand domestic law. One example have gave was that the agreement could mean it became illegal for New Zealanders to find ways around DVD region code restrictions.
Quoting a tweet made by another conference guest, Harvey said “We have met the enemy and he is US” (a play on a line from Walt Kelly’s political cartoon Pogo.)
After reports of the comment spread internationally, Harvey bowed to pressure to quit. The chief judge at his court, Jan-Marie Doogue, said ” He recognises that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case.”
The incident comes shortly after Harvey decided to delay Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing from August 5 to March 25 next year. The extra time is to allow the court to work out whether it can allow the use of evidence gathered during a search of Dotcom’s home in January. That search has since been ruled illegal.
The case will now be taken over by Judge Nevin Dawson, who already had some involvement having been the judge who ruled that Dotcom should be granted bail pending the hearing.
While I’m sure Harvey could have set personal feelings aside, there’s no way he could have stayed on in the case after the comments were made. Then again, perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but I don’t understand why a judge would be commenting publicly about proposed laws anyway — that seems to undermine the whole philosophy of separation of powers.