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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Certain of the Persecution's, Annoyances, and Insults Experienced by me at the Hands of Judge Fenton

Certain of the Persecution's, Annoyances, and Insults Experienced by me at the Hands of Judge Fenton.

In February, 1879, the Chief Judge, while refusing me a clerk at Tauranga, and declining to contribute even to the salary of one, suddenly required me by letter to perform a considerable amount of clerical work of a highly technical kind. The labor consisted in endorsing upon a heavy batch of my decisions the boundaries and descriptions of the lands adjudicated. I had seen many hundreds of decisions by other Judges, but none of them were so endorsed, and as a matter of fact none of them was endorsed, the practice having been discontinued many years ago by reason of the enormous and useless amount of labor involved. I noticed that I was being treated exceptionally, but making no complaint I went to Auckland, and had the work done by a clerk at the head office, obtaining the information re boundaries from the Deeds Office. The labor occupied an experienced clerk a week or more, and I returned to Tauranga feeling that I had been harrassed intentionally. Having failed to reduce me practically to the position of a clerk in the Land Court Department the Chief Judge determined to place upon me the indignity of questioning the Clerk's Department in writing whether the work had been performed, even in respect to supervising which I had claimed travelling expenses upon voucher. I refused, however, to see this studied insult—nor did I complain when by a frivolous minute the Chief Judge informed the Government that he objected to the payment of my voucher. The Hon. Mr Sheehan, Native Minister, however, replied in writing that my duties as Commissioner were more important than my duty as a Judge of the Land Court; that I had been stationed at Tauranga by the Government; and that as Judge Wilson had had to travel from that place his expenses must be recouped, and the Treasury was ordered to pay them accordingly.

In July, 1879, Judge Fenton directed me to hold a Court at Opotiki on the 13th of the following month. I replied, "I have a Commissioner's Court to commence on the 24th proximo, also another sitting now. There I will re-arrange so as to permit me to take Opotiki Court." I should state that in August, 1878, August and November, 1879, and June and July, 1880, I postponed Tauranga Courts in order to take Native Laud Courts in the Bay of Plenty. I mention this page 56 in refutation of Mr. Rolleston's assertion before a Parliamentary Committee that I had not worked harmoniously with Judge Fenton. Whereas, if I erred, it was in working to the detriment of Tauranga in too harmonious a manner.

At Opotiki I found the Chief Judge's administration had failed to supply a clerk or interpreter, or stationery, for the use of the Courts, nor was there nearly the number of forms necessary for recording the decisions, "&c., of the Court, and though I had requisitioned through the Chief Judge weeks before, I had no money. Here was administration exhibited in a form so embarrassing as to be obstructive. However, rather than disappoint the Natives who had come from a distance, I proceeded to make bricks without straw. I engaged assistance, obtained stationery, made manuscript forms, held the Court and disposed of every case upon the list, and sent in vouchers for the expenses of the Court, £13 18s., which, incredible as it may seem, were forwarded to Government by the Chief Judge with a minute that he could not recommend payment, and this notwithstanding I had advised him of the circumstances.

The Government thereupon returned the vouchers to me for explanation. Hence the following memorandum by myself, resulting in payment to me of the money: