Courtside admiration for new judge

By Melissa Nightingale

WELCOMING: Judge Rowe shares a hongi with kaumatua John Maihi.
WELCOMING: Judge Rowe shares a hongi with kaumatua John Maihi.

Judge Lance Rowe was relieved on Thursday that everyone had said "nice things" about him at his swearing-in, so his first judicial order didn't have to be one of suppression.

A former Crown prosecutor at Armstrong Barton, he was sworn in this week as an acting district court judge, and will sit in Palmerston North.

In a speech written by Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, delivered by Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, Judge Rowe was described as an "outstanding youth advocate".

She said she was "reliably informed" trials brought out Judge Rowe's "inner Bear Grylls", and he would insist juries visit the scene of every crime.

She said she was told of a jury "taken into the wilderness" and made to "abseil down a cliff", a detective rescuing a jury member who got stuck, and a judge forced to wear gumboots.

Judge Doogue went on to speak of some of Judge Rowe's other interests - cycling, acting, and "arguably a talent for saxophone playing".

She said he was known for sometimes having "flashes of Black Adderisms" in his closing statements at trial.

Defence lawyer Debbie Goodlet touched on Judge Rowe's theatrical side in her address as well, mentioning a trial they had both worked on as defence.

"You started your closing address with a quote from Barbra Streisand," she said.

Ms Goodlet spoke of Judge Rowe's diligence, hard work, professionalism, attention to detail, and his preparedness.

"That will make you a good judge. But I was thinking, what will make you a great judge? And I think the one quality that I can see in a great judge, and it's exhibited in a variety of ways but they all have it, and they all have humanity."

Ms Goodlet said the Whanganui Bar would miss Judge Rowe, but she herself would not miss "the dulcet tones of 'section 35.2 is engaged'".

"We have this kind of geeky habit where we have these long telephone conversations about legal principles and about the law, and I will miss those telephone conversations.

"Be a great judge, Judge Rowe."

Fellow Crown prosecutor and president of the Whanganui branch of the NZ Law Society Harry Mallalieu said Judge Rowe had the makings of a "very fine judge-to-be".

"You, sir, have a passion for the law. Not just for the law, but the people the law involves and affects on a daily basis.

"For the first eight years I have known you as a defence lawyer, while I was a prosecutor. You were a formidable advocate for your clients and I frequently felt the barbs in my back."

That changed to "gentle prods of encouragement from the side" when Judge Rowe became a prosecutor.

Since Judge Rowe's appointment, Mr Mallalieu said he'd had to walk past Judge Rowe's office daily and "respectfully pause and bow my head".

"Frankly, for me, it's becoming a pain in the neck."

They would miss his "wise counsel", humour, dedication, and readiness and willingness to help, he said.

Judge Rowe, in his address, admitted his tendency to take juries on scene visits, speaking of one occasion where he'd had to help push a jury member up a hill.

"Whanganui is a fine place to practise law," he said.

He thanked the "incredibly dedicated" and "underappreciated" court staff, and said he'd promised registrar Carol Brookie he would not take the court staff in Palmerston North for granted.

He thanked the Whanganui police, Life to the Max Trust for which he has been chairman, and his colleagues at Armstrong Barton.

"I'm sorry to be leaving the firm. That has been one of the hardest parts of taking this position."

Judge Rowe pondered what kind of judge he would be.

"I will strive to listen and then I will strive above all to be fair, and I hope that being fair is being a humanitarian.

"That is the kind of judge I would like to be.

"Kia ora."

-Video online at Wanganui Chronicle

- Wanganui Chronicle

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