There was standing room only when four robed and wigged High Court judges presided over a judiciary procedure in Whangarei - the swearing to the High Court bench of Roger Bell, long-time local barrister and partner in law firm Webb Ross.
Nearly every lawyer in Northland, court and legal staff, and a host of family, friends and wellwishers attended as Mr Bell became Justice Bell, sworn in as an associate High Court judge by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias on Friday.
The occasion, the first time such an appointment has been made of a Northland lawyer, was rich with tributes to the new judge from his peers, New Zealand Law Society, Auckland District Law Society and colleagues from the Northland Bar Association.
In welcoming Justice Bell's family to the proceedings, Dame Elias said  a judge's occupation was often a lonely one.
"Family is important in making sure we are properly cut down to size from time to time," she said.
A good judge understood the many facets of community, and needed to be a good generalist, Dame Elias said. She could think of no one who had a wider range of experience and speciality than Justice Bell, she said.
He had been marked out as an outstanding student of law early on, Dame Elias said.
 He came to Northland in 1986 after working with leading law companies in Auckland, earlier having worked as the People's Lawyer in Kiribati for two years, and with a prestigious Bachelor in Civil Laws from Oxford University.

 In Northland Justice Bell specialised in resource management law, local government and litigation.
Justice Bell's Northland colleagues said he was known as the "go-to person because of his true passion for the law".
He in turn praised highly his Northland colleagues and the other professionals with whom he had worked.
"Northlanders can be rough around the edges," he said, "but this community works on a high level and on high levels of trust."
Justice Bell said he had been proud of his time with Webb Ross.
 Justice Bell's new 12-month position in Auckland is termed temporary because the judiciary had reached its  statutory cap. It  would become permanent when the statute was changed within the year.