The Supremes - who’s who on NZ’S highest court

Dame Sian Elias, Chief Justice

Born: March 13, 1949.
Retires: Officially 12 years off - will go well before (not a time-server).
Bench: High Court judge 1995. Chief Justice 1999 - New Zealand’s first female Chief Justice.
Key Issue: Her position could be undermined by Government over tussles on judicial independence.
Defining Point: Made her name as a barrister on Treaty of Waitangi cases.
Personal: Financially independent. Married into Fletcher family - husband Hugh Fletcher is a retired industrialist. Breeds and races horses.
Senior Bar views: "Very intelligent. A good conceptual thinker. Not the greatest of administrators. She’s not an Eichelbaum ... There’s not the clock-like teutonic efficiency." Not given enough judgments to stamp her mark - yet.

Thomas Gault

Born: October 31, 1938.
Retires: 18 months.
Bench: High Court judge (1987); Court of Appeal (1991), President (2002).
Key Issue: The most senior Supreme on judicial experience. His appointment as Appeal Court President quelled suggestions former Attorney-General Margaret Wilson was disposed to appointing those who had a liberal judicial philosophy.
Defining Point: A rigorous lawyer with strong expertise in intellectual property.
Personal: Keen golfer.
Senior bar views: Hardly a dreaded judicial activist.

Good work in commercial arena. Unlikely to produce anything particularly innovative ... programmed for the conservative result.

Sir Kenneth Keith

Born: November 19, 1937.
Retires: Seven months.
Bench: High Court (1996); Court of Appeal (1996).
Key Issue: Whether his Government-backed bid for a place on the International Court of Justice succeeds.
Defining Point: Member of the legal team that took cases against the French for nuclear testing in the Pacific. Vast experience in international diplomacy and law.
Personal: Only knight among the Supremes.
Senior Bar views: At his best on international treaties and obligations and how they react to local law.

Peter Blanchard

Born: August 2, 1942.
Retires: Five years off.
Bench: High Court Judge (1992); Court of Appeal (1996).
Key Issue: His influence on the Supreme Court should dispel business concerns over the loss of the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
Defining Point: Vast commercial experience as a company director and partner in Simpson Grierson before going on the bench.
Personal: "Something of a poet at Kings College", according to Appeal Court Judge Robert Chambers at a function honouring him. A movie aficionado.
Senior Bar views: Has a super mind. Something of a maverick, which makes him interesting. He could change the law if it suited him and would - as would Tipping ... but Blanchard is fairly conservative. They all are.

Andrew Tipping

Born: August 22, 1942.
Retires: Five years.
Bench: High Court (1986); Court of Appeal (1997); Privy Council (1998).
Key Issue: Bringing his expertise on freedom of expression to bear at Supreme Court level.
Defining Point: Emphasis in Appeal Court case that freedom of expression in Bill of Rights Act should be given full weight - citizens may expect that "on appropriate occasions" the courts will indicate whether a particular legislative provision is or is not justified.
Personal: Golfer. Honorary doctorate.
Senior Bar views: An orthodox judge. Highly intelligent man who doesn’t have any agenda. Will come down on the liberal or conservative side depending on what he thinks is the right result.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 25 May 2017 11:30:48 Processing Time: 364ms