Abusive Family Court Judges: Accountability Required

Sacha | The Justice Lark
8 min readOct 21, 2021

There is an abusive family court judge now ‘educating’ on family violence & abuse. Principal Family Court Judge, Jacqueline Moran, apparently doesn’t think that’s a problem

I practiced as a lawyer until 2016. In the last few years of practice, this was in a regional court, where everyone knew everyone. That also meant I appeared regularly in front of one of the resident judges there: Stephen Coyle.

In spite of our professional relationship, in 2016, Judge Coyle took it upon himself to reserve my personal family court case to himself. He hadn’t had any previous involvement in the case on any substantial level, so there was no clear reasoning behind the decision.

There was however (because of our professional relationship), an obvious and serious conflict of interest, yet he refused to recuse himself; going so far as to claim that he didn’t remember who I was or if I had ever appeared in front of him in a professional capacity. Since I appeared in our regional court daily, where he was a resident judge, it was a bit of a leap on his part.

In a similar case (G v N [2018] NZHC 2763), Coyle was also criticised by the High Court for continuing to act where there was a conflict of interest; reflecting something of a pattern for him. He does quite literally consider himself to be above the law and who is there to stop him?

Of related concern is that my case also involves family violence and abuse. I previously published a newsroom article (as well as on here), where I detailed the never ceasing series of family court (and related) applications that I have been subjected to by an abusive ex partner. Coyle was the judge in the majority of those proceedings.

Coyle has been criticised by the Court of Appeal in Nikau v Nikau [2018] NZCA 566, in relation to his approach on family violence matters. It’s an issue also reflected across many of his other published decisions (see for example: Carter v Wi; AJO v AWO).

It’s also an issue I knew well from my professional practice in the regional court we both worked too: discussion in the lawyers room was often rife with criticism of him on…

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Sacha | The Justice Lark

Passionate writer and researcher focused on promoting justice and equity, with emphasis on issues related to gender-based violence, trauma & mental health.