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Maurice James Knuckey, 1931 - 2018

By Kit Clews

Maurice Knuckey died in Hamilton on 21 November 2018 aged 87.

Maurice came to Hamilton in the early 1980s. Born in Hawke's Bay on 9 September 1931, he established himself (in Dunedin) after attending Otago University and practised there from the 1960s to the 1980s.  He came here as a barrister sole and worked at the bar retiring at the millennium (that’s 18 years ago so the youngsters won’t know him).

He was a very able lawyer who contributed these qualities to Hamilton City. He believed in “comity” at the bar and practised it with some force.  We were a very social profession, but work has gone up a gear or two since then as have we all. There is so little time.  

And his other contribution was legend.  In 1994 the Waikato Bay of Plenty District Law Society mandarins - without reading the relevant legal aid legislation - removed legal aid categories from many practitioners. They used the “Trump” method.  That is, on Friday night you went home a team leader with all your legal aid categories.  The following Monday morning by letter you were informed that you no longer possessed categories 3 and 4 and you were still team leader but the most junior member of your team.  

Maurice snapped and said, “heard of ‘natural justice’,” and started the campaign “Operation Lest We Forget”. The mandarins read the legislation. The mandarins were snafu. The mandarins restored the categories. Maurice had smote them.

The mere thought of it brings the taste of a buttery chardonnay to my lips. If you could live through that atrocity you could live through anything.

That victory still comes to mind quite often; as does/will Maurice. There are some things you never forget and fella, you’re one of them.

This was first published in the December 2018 issue of Branch Brief, the monthly e-newsletter of the Waikato Bay of Plenty branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

Last updated on the 9th January 2019