This time every year I kick myself for not putting my legal training to good use. By good use, I mean getting to enjoy the fruits of the corporate shut-down period, which generally runs until late January. Nevertheless, let's look at some of the winners and losers of 2021.
Winners of 2021
On December 4 Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu unveiled new robes for judges in the Te Ao Mārama Court Model. The robes were blessed by Sir Derek Lardeli who was consulted on the tukutuku panel design on the new robes.
Let's hope the incredibly chic robes - with their traditional Maori detailing and pops of navy on the collar - are the start of a new fashion era for the legal industry.
The last time New Zealand's institutions had a "fashion moment" was in the mid-noughties, when Zambesi designed the controversial Air New Zealand uniforms. Loved by some, hated by many - the bold move was iconic.
Progressives alike were also winners this year, with the successful Court of Appeal decision of Paul v Mead in December. The case concerned whether the courts could hear claims between partners in a polyamerous relationship under the Property Relationships Act.
In this case the throuple lived in a property for 15 years before it broke down. The court found that each partner obtaining a 33 percent share of the property was not at odds with the Act.
Congratulations are in order for the Broadcasting Standards Authority, which decided not to entertain complaints relating to the use of te reo Māori in March. It said te reo Maori was an official New Zealand language and noted its use was protected and promoted by law. Broadcasting in the language was not in breach of any standards.
The Authority also came out swinging in December urging anti-vaxxers to calm the farm and not to bother complaining about discrimination. Comments aired on TV or radio about people based on their vaccination status was unlikely to be considered discrimination or denigration under broadcasting standards, it said.
Congratulations to all of the public law and political commentators Andrew Geddis, Felix Geiringer, Ben Thomas, Morgan Godfery et al who have been inundated with content to positively fizz over for the last two years. If my calculations are correct there have been 19 pieces of legislation enacted or made since 6 December 2021.
There have been 23 pieces of legislation that have come into force since COVID-19 reached the antipodes, notwithstanding the million-or-so pieces of secondary legislation.
Although Todd Muller's National leadership was fleeting, the end perhaps justified the means - excuse the ironic socialism rhetoric - insofar as he revealed his struggle with mental health and inadvertently kicked off a mental health awareness campaign across the country.
He is also a "winner, winner, chicken dinner" thanks to his Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Bill. The bill - which passed its first reading in November - requires the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to recommend the setting of mandatory regulation of the Fair Trading Act so that there is a product safety standard for sunscreen products.
Unfortunately I don't think the bill extends to aftersun or moisturiser products, which can easily be confused with SPF50. I say this as I nurse my poor shoulders and back at present.
Losers and participation awards for 2021
You have to feel sorry for Judith Collins whose #metoo bid to out Simon Bridges for allegations of making inappropriate comments went down like a cup of cold sick among National voters in December. The move was fatal.
Collins tweeted: "I knew when I was confided in by a female colleague regarding her allegation of serious misconduct against a senior colleague, that I would likely lose the leadership by taking the matter so seriously".
Christopher Luxon came out on top, his views on abortion did not, in my view. In a press release ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa spokesperson Dr Tracy Morison said "Christopher Luxon's well-publicised anti-abortion views are not representative of the values of mainstream New Zealanders, who overwhelmingly supported reform".
Luxon said on Checkpoint following his appointment that his pro-life stance was not "a big issue" because abortion was decriminalized last year, and his deputy Nicola Willis was pro-choice. Pro-life mightn't be a big issue, and hell is just a sauna.
Twenty-twenty-one was also a big year for former Russell McVeagh partner James Gardner-Hopkins who was named following a hearing of serious misconduct before the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
He was found found guilty of six charges of misconduct relating to sexual harrassment against summer interns in December 2015. The disciplinary tribunal reserved its decision on whether to strip him of his practising certificate in December.
Law firm Morrison Kent also deserves a mention for allegations relating to bullying, racism, and exploitation following an investigation published in the Herald in November. A slight conflict of interest for me seeing as I reported on the leaked recording and financials but hey, it's the holiday period.
Finally, among those who lost out in 2021 a place has to go to the Wanaka couple that flouted the lockdown rules and bore the brunt of the rest of New Zealand's frustration. Auckland lawyer Hannah Rawnsley pleaded guilty to breaching lockdown rules to travel to Auckland to Wanaka and was discharged without conviction while her partner, John Lawrence Willis, was fined $750.
After the alleged breach was made public, the pair sought name suppression in an attempt to keep their identity - and the identity of Willis' mother - a district court judge - a secret.
What did we learn in 2021? Covid is the worst, name suppression is complicated, sexual harrassment is finally being taken seriously, and sunblock is forever.