The judge in the high-profile Kim Dotcom extradition case has stood down after he jokingly referred to the United States as the ‘‘enemy’’ during a debate.
Judge David Harvey’s pun was met with resounding laughter at an internet conference in Auckland last week, but the Ministry of Justice was not laughing yesterday.
A ministry spokesperson confirmed Judge Harvey had stood down from the Dotcom case after questions were raised over his impartiality.
But Russell Brown, who chaired the internet conference, said the judge’s remark was an offhand joke taken out of context.
Judge Harvey, who specialises in internet law and has written a book on the subject, made the controversial remark during a NetHui discussion on copyright and trade talks with the United States.
During the conference, Judge Harvey said: ‘‘If I could use Russell [Brown’s] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] US’’.
Brown, a blogger and media commentator, said Judge Harvey’s remark was a pun referring to an earlier Tweet that read: “We have met the enemy and he is us’’.
“He made the comment from the floor, a brief comment. The thrust of his point was about the detail of the negotiations.”
Judge Harvey was criticising the United States’s negotiating position on the Trans Pacific Partnership, not declaring war on the United States, Brown said.
The TPP trade agreement between New Zealand and eight other countries has implications for intellectual property law.
However, Brown accepted Judge Harvey’s decision to stand down over the comment.
“That was his decision to make. He felt he needed to do it particularly once it became a story.’’
Brown said he had a lot of respect for Judge Harvey.
‘‘He is regarded as one of the most tech savvy judges in the country.
‘‘His ability to be frank and forthcoming at the conference was extremely valuable.’’
Mr Dotcom’s lawyer, Ira Rothken, told Radio New Zealand he was disappointed Judge Harvey would not hear the case.
‘‘The judge is obviously a man of integrity and his action seemed disproportionate, given the comments were not meant to be taken literally,’’ he said.
Mr Dotcom’s extradition hearing is due to be held in March, more than a year after his arrest on copyright charges laid by the United States Government. The Megaupload founder is wanted on charges of internet piracy.
The case will now be heard by Judge Nevin Dawson.
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