Judge Salvatore Vasta’s decision to imprison Mr Stradford (a pseudonym)  for contempt of the former Federal Circuit Court in 2018 was promptly reversed by the Full Family Court. The Full Court had described the process to be “so devoid of procedural fairness that to allow the order for imprisonment to stand would be an affront to justice” (see Stradford & Stradford (2019) FLC 93-888).

The damages case

The case has recently become newsworthy again with Mr Stradford’s claim for damages against Judge Vasta being successful. In an 852 paragraph judgment, Wigney J in the Federal Court traversed some rarely seen issues including judicial immunity and whether it applies to inferior court judges. The end result is that the Judge will be personally liable for a portion of the damages. If you’re not up to reading the judgment you could just listen to the Law Report podcast.

Angelo Vasta

However, this post is not about Judge Vasta Jr.  I grew up in Bjelke-Peterson pre-Fitzgerald Queensland and even I remember the controversy surrounding his father, former justice of the Supreme Court of QLD, Angelo Vasta.

On 8 June 1989, Mr Angelo Vasta QC’s commission as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland was cancelled by the then Governor of Queensland, the late Sir Walter Campbell AC QC. The action taken by the Governor followed a motion of the Queensland Parliament passed the day before to remove Mr Vasta from the Supreme Court due to behaviour which in the opinion of a Parliamentary Judges Commission of Inquiry  warranted his removal from office.

Needless to say there was a tangled web of matters that ultimately led to his removal. He is (I think) the only Supreme Court Judge who has ever been removed from office. The matters started with a defamation case against the magazine Matilda, which published material about his relationship with the then police commissioner Terry Lewis. Of course, friendship with Terry Lewis resulted in him being invited to give evidence in the Fitzgerald Enquiry. That invitation was declined and Justice Vasta was then given notice that there may have been evidence that an affidavit he swore in the defamation proceedings may not have been entirely correct.

This is quite a long saga and most of it is difficult to find on the internet. However, in 2017 Robbie Katter (state member for Mt Isa and Bob’s son) introduced a private member’s bill to the QLD parliament. A parliamentary committee  examined the Honourable Angelo Vasta (Reversal of Removal) Bill 2017  and recommended that it not be passed (which it wasn’t). The detail of the history and background are set out in the report of that committee which is on the internet.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.