Deep shock at judge's death

By Matthew Martin, Jill Nicholas

1 comment

Tributes are pouring in for a much loved and highly respected Rotorua judge who has died after an accident at his home.

The body of District Court Judge James Weir, 65, was found by his daughter at his Tihiotonga home about 12.25pm on Sunday.

Bay of Plenty Coroner Wallace Bain said an autopsy was carried out yesterday.

"We have learnt that in the last few days Judge Weir has probably had several mini-strokes which haven't been recognised as that and my preliminary view is he had another one which caused him to fall through a glass door and severely lacerate the side of his body and he bled to death," Coroner Bain said.

Rotorua police confirmed the death was not being treated as suspicious.

In a statement, Coroner Bain said a neighbour of Judge Weir heard the sound of breaking glass about 9pm on Saturday and went outside but couldn't hear anything further.

On Sunday Judge Weir's daughter returned home and found a glass door between the garage and the house was smashed and there was "blood everywhere".

She went inside and found her father, who was clearly dead, in the bathroom.

"Blood-soaked towels were scattered around. It was apparent he had gone to bed," Coroner Bain said.

Judge Weir presided over Rotorua courtrooms for 15 years before leaving in April last year to begin a five-year appointment as chairman of the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority. At the time, he told the Rotorua Daily Post he hadn't ruled out returning to the district court bench after that.

Judges Chris McGuire, Jocelyn Munro and Alayne Wills, plus colleagues, court staff, kaumatua and members of the Rotorua legal community, held a special sitting in the Rotorua District Court yesterday to pay their respects to Judge Weir.

"Suffice to say we are all deeply shocked," Judge McGuire told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"Jim was a much loved, dedicated, hard working and loyal friend throughout the 38 years that I have known him.

"A prisoner from Waikeria today on AVL [audio visual links] offered his condolences, such is the recognition of Judge Weir's reputation for professionalism and fairness as a judge."

Rotorua lawyer Martin Hine said Judge Weir's death was a real shock and the Rotorua community would be poorer from his passing.

"He was a very hard working judge, and in my career of 40 years he was one of the judges I did feel that really cared. We are very lucky in Rotorua that we do have many judges like that, but it's a very sad day for us and for the profession."

Mr Hine said he would be very hard to replace.

"He could often be emotional, direct and frank, but in my mind this was borne from his commitment to people and trying to do the best for them - he wore his heart on his sleeve.

"He was also a very good bloke and his off-bench personality was of a charming man in whose company you could relax.

"I came to profoundly respect him and his judgements - I did not always agree with him - but he did have a fine sense of judgement, we are all poorer for his passing," Mr Hine said.

Friend and long-time golfing partner Terry Morrison described Judge Weir as a valued, close friend. The two regularly played in the same four at Arikikapakapa where Judge Weir played off a 12 handicap.

He described Judge Weir as a very strong-willed man which was reflected in his job and golf.

"He was pretty tough on himself," the former Ngongotaha primary principal said.

Coroner Bain said he knew Judge Weir from their time at the bar and as young lawyers in Hamilton in the 1970s.

"He had an outstanding legal mind and really enjoyed the change to his new role and did it very well," he said. "He was a devoted family man and will be sorely missed in the legal profession and on the judiciary.

"He had a wonderful sense of humour but did not muck around when what needed to be said had to be said," Coroner Bain said.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue has also paid tribute to the contribution and service of Judge Weir.

"He loved his new role, and when I spoke to him before Christmas he was still excited about it and enjoying the travel," Judge Doogue said. "He was much loved and respected among the community of District Court judges and he will be sorely missed."

Judge Weir was survived by his wife Margaret and three adult children, she said.

It is expected his funeral will be held in Rotorua this week.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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