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Rule of Law Committee

The Rule of Law Committee monitors and responds to rule of law issues and assists the legal profession in meeting its fundamental obligation to uphold the rule of law (as set out in s4(a) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006). The Committee is actively involved in monitoring the rule of law in New Zealand and overseas, and its work demonstrates the Law Society’s strong commitment to the rule of law.

About Us

The Rule of Law Committee (ROLC) was established in 2007, following the enactment of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 which recognised the upholding of the rule of law as a fundamental obligation for lawyers. (The committee’s full terms of reference are set out below.)

The ROLC has a primary focus on domestic rule of law concerns but keeps a watching brief on international issues. The committee is aware that in all jurisdictions the maintenance of the rule of law requires awareness and vigilance, and the ROLC continues to play its part in that.

Our People

Austin Forbes QC is the convenor of the Rule of Law Committee. A former New Zealand Law Society President, Austin is a Christchurch-based barrister who specialises in commercial and civil litigation. In 1997, he was made a Companion of the Order of New Zealand for services to the legal profession. From 1991 to 1997, Austin was a member of the Law Society Board, serving as vice-president from 1991 to 1993 and President from 1994 to 1997. From 1997 to 2000, he was a member of the executive committee and council of LAWASIA.

The members of the Rule of Law Committee have a wealth of experience in constitutional and public law:

  • Jane Anderson QC
  • Gregor Allan
  • Isaac Hikaka
  • Professor Philip Joseph
  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC
  • James Wilding QC

NZLS contact: Vicky Stanbridge, Law Reform Manager
DX SP20202 or PO Box 5041, Wellington 6145

Recent Work

In the past 18 months, the ROLC and the Law Society have continued to monitor, highlight and debate rule of law issues.

Committee members have also contributed to a number of NZLS submissions, including on:

  • a legislative amendment to give Inland Revenue transitional powers to override the Tax Administration Act during implementation of the Business Transformation programme;
  • the Food Safety Law Reform Bill (the clarity and coherence of the structure of delegated legislation relating to food safety);
  • the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill;
  • Parliament’s Review of its Standing Orders;
  • a proposed amendment to the Credit Contracts & Consumer Finance Act 2003 (retrospective amendment, exceptional circumstances);
  • emergency recovery legislation following the Hurunui/KaikĊura earthquakes; and
  • the Law Commission’s review of the Search & Surveillance Act 2012.

Get Involved

Appointments are made to this committee biennially. If you have a passion for law reform, skills and expertise in constitutional, rule of law or public law, and the time and energy to commit, then get involved.

Membership of this committee allows you to play an important role in monitoring and responding to rule of law issues on behalf of the Law Society and the legal profession.

Additionally, substantive contribution to NZLS law reform may count towards your Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Applications for the 2017 appointment round have closed. The next appointment round will be in mid-2019.

The Rule of Law Committee’s terms of reference

In 2007 the NZLS Board established the Rule of Law Committee, to assist the profession to meet its fundamental obligation to uphold the rule of law and to facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand (s4(a) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006). The Board noted that the committee would need to act in a careful, principled, apolitical way. Its members would need to understand constitutional public law issues, the Law Society’s working relationships with the government, and the need to provide the profession with information to assist it to meet its fundamental obligation in relation to the rule of law and administration of justice.

The terms of reference for the Rule of Law Committee are to:

  1. advise and assist the legal profession in meeting the fundamental obligation of lawyers expressed in s 4(a) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006;
  2. promote the continued separation of the legislative, executive and judicial functions of government and, in particular, to promote and protect judicial independence;
  3. monitor and respond to rule of law issues arising from proposals, decisions or actions of the New Zealand government or government agencies;
  4. monitor the mechanisms of government, including constitutional conventions;
  5. maintain a neutral political position;
  6. respond, as appropriate, to requests for advice and assistance from international legal associations on rule of law issues; and
  7. assist the Law Commission in its goal to achieve laws that are just, principled and accessible.

Last updated on the 28th January 2019