The high-ranking official within a Queensland government agency pockets $400,000 a year.
Melbourne lawyer Barry Sherriff has been quietly conducting interviews for months, after being asked to investigate whether Ms Linnane — who is paid an annual base salary of nearly $400,000 and has tenure until she is 70 — breached the state’s Work Health and Safety Act.
She is alleged to have bullied Industrial Court commissioner Minna Knight.
The judicial officers serve on the Industrial Court and Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, which are responsible for resolving workplace disputes. The Australian understands Ms Linnane denies the allegations being investigated by Mr Sherriff and is considering legal options.
The Australian is not suggesting Ms Linnane engaged in the conduct, only that she is being investigated for it. She did not respond to questions from this paper put through the court’s registry yesterday.
The case is highly sensitive for the state, given judges’ right to immunity from prosecution and the separation of powers.
It is doubtful any action could be taken against Ms Linnane by the government even if the allegations were proven.
Under Queensland law, the only way to remove a judicial officer from their office is for the governor to order the removal after a vote of parliament for “mental or physical incapacity” or “misbehaviour”.
It is unlikely that bullying allegations against Ms Linnane would justify such an action, and Mr Sherriff is not conducting a general investigation into her fitness as a judicial officer. Under the Industrial Relations Act, judicial officers such as Ms Linnane are afforded immunities similar to Supreme Court judges for performing their duties.
The Linnane stoush spilt into the courtroom recently when Industrial Court president and Supreme Court judge Glenn Martin was forced to order Ms Linnane be removed from hearing an unrelated case in which Dr Blackwood would be a key witness.
The case involved public servant Alain D’Hotman De Villiers, who was sacked by Dr Blackwood from the Office of Industrial Relations. Lawyers for both the bureaucrat and the government asked Ms Linnane to recuse herself after she agreed to sign a notice ordering the production of documents.
The notice required the production of documents “showing Simon Blackwood’s involvement in responding to any complaint or complaints” about or involving Ms Linnane in the past five years, and all documents relating to the appointment of an investigator of any such complaints.
In a two-minute hearing in late October, Ms Linnane refused to hear arguments that she should recuse herself for apprehended bias. The government and Mr De Villiers’s lawyers appealed, and Justice Martin ruled on November 3 that she be recused because “the necessary ground for establishing apprehended bias has clearly been made out”.
When contacted by The Australian to give Ms Linnane a right of reply, her solicitor, Glen Cranny, said “it would not be appropriate to comment further at this point in time”.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said she was “aware” of the independent investigation but it was “the sole responsibility of the department”.
Aged in her mid-60s, Ms Linnane was appointed to both the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and the Industrial Court by the Beattie Labor government in 1999 after a career as a barrister.
In 2010, Right to Information documents obtained by The Courier-Mail revealed a long-running stoush between Ms Linnane and then-commissioner Don Brown, in which she ordered him not to enter the commission’s tearoom, library and his own chambers.