Joseph Williams

Knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the judiciary

Joseph Victor Williams, better known in the country's law community as Justice Joe Williams, was made a knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the 2020 New Year Honours for his services to the judiciary.

One of New Zealand's most distinguished legal minds and the first Māori judge to sit on the Supreme Court has yet another honour - a knighthood.

Joseph Victor Williams, better known in the country's law community as Justice Joe Williams, was made a knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the 2020 New Year Honours for his services to the judiciary.

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READ MORE: New Year Honours 2020: The full list

Justice Williams was appointed as the first Māori judge of the Supreme Court in May 2019 and is an internationally recognised expert in indigenous rights law.

He is of is of Ngati Pukenga, Waitaha and Tapuika descent and considered one of New Zealand's leading specialists on Māori land and legal issues.

Justice Williams futher established the first unit specialising in Māori issues in a major New Zealand law firm at Kensington Swan in 1988.

He also co-founded the law firm Walters Williams and Co in 1994.

In 1999, Justice Williams was appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court before he was appointed acting chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal in 2000 and as the permanent chairperson in 2004.

As the tribunal's chairperson he played a pivotal role in the report on the Wai 262 claim relating to New Zealand's law and policy affecting Māori culture and identity.

The judge was then appointed to the High Court in 2008 and ten years later promoted to the Court of Appeal bench.

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He was the first te reo speaker to be appointed to the Court of Appeal.

Justice Williams is also a founding member and former vice-president of the Māori Law Society, a former president of Te Runanga Rōia o Tāmaki Makaurau, the Auckland Maori Lawyers Association, a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and a fellow of the Law Faculty of Victoria University of Wellington.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Victoria University in 1986 and joined the faculty as a junior lecturer in law, before going on to gain a masters degree with honours from University of British Columbia in 1988.

In 1999, Justice Williams was appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court. Photo / File
In 1999, Justice Williams was appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court. Photo / File