I-Team: Painter out as United Nations judge

Former local judge calls high court "a farce"

CINCINNATI - A judge with local ties who served three years on the United Nation's top court says he's resigned after what he calls a "purge" from a court that's become "a farce." The head of the committee that led to his resignation calls his charges untrue.

Judge Mark Painter spent almost 30 years in Cincinnati as a Municipal Court judge and then on the Court of Appeals. In 2009, he won a post as the only American on a new seven-member tribunal that would make the final judgments on internal United Nations disputes.

The court hears appeals of cases that the U.N's 60,000 employees across the world may file, cases including firings, accusations of bribery or sex discrimination and other workplace disagreements.

The Appeals Tribunal met three times a year in New York and Geneva. Judge Painter said the court quickly set a path toward reforming the system that previously allowed awarding of payoffs even to losing claimants and did not stick strictly to the rules the U.N. set in place.

"Our court was supposed to be a bastion of consistency and transparency in the system, because there wasn't [that] before," said Painter.

Recordings of some of the proceedings reveal that at least three of the judges had issues with at least the resources afforded to the new court. French judge Jean Courtial opened one of the meetings saying, "The UN Appeals Tribunal exists, that is true, but it is weak and powerless."

Painter says that wasn't the only problem. He said longtime United Nations staffers weren't pleased with the strict interpretation of the rules the new court began to adjudicate, despite the tribunal's mandate for reform.

"The biggest reform here is that our decisions were binding on the Secretary General and all the staff. They didn't like that. They're not used to it, judges telling them, 'Wait a minute. You didn't follow the law and you have to,'" said Painter in an interview back home in Cincinnati, where he kept his residence while serving on the court.

"The problem you find out is everybody wants reform, but they want to reform someone else. It's always the other guy that needs reforming," said Painter

Three years into his term, the committee in charge of nominating judges, the Internal Justice Council, decided not to re-nominate him for a full seven-year term, but instead to endorse Rosalyn Chapman, a federal judge from California. The chairperson of the IJC, Justice Kate O'Regan of South America defended that move.

"Judge Painter... had no guarantee of reappointment," said O'Regan. "The IJC received applications from many excellent candidates from the USA and had to select the best candidate with experience in relevant fields."

Painter said his experience over the last three years, in addition to his prior three decades more than qualified him. Rather than finish his final three months on the court, he resigned, saying the committee was "trying to obstruct reform and remove judges who strictly followed the rule of law."

O'Regan denies Painter's allegations, calling them "untrue."

"The IJC seeks to ensure professionalism, independence and accountability in the system of law at the United Nations. To that end, it conducts a transparent and competitive selection process," O'Regan said.

To read the full report from the Internal Justice Council go to http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/IJCReport.pdf.

To read the press release on Judge Painter's resignation go to http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/Painterresign.pdf.

To read Judge Painter's resignation letter click on the related link above.

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