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NZ Legal Trailblazers

08 August 2018

1840: English solicitor Richard Davies Hanson arrives at Wellington on 3 January, the first qualified European lawyer in New Zealand.

1842: English solicitor William Martin (later Sir William) is sworn in on 10 January as the first Chief Justice.

1897: On 26 March Apirana Turupa Ngata (later Sir Apirana) is the first Māori to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor.

On 10 May Ethel Benjamin becomes the first European woman to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor.

1923: In July Harold Herbert Carr is appointed to the bench of the Native (later Māori) Land Court, the first Māori to be appointed a judicial officer.

1924: Henry Ah Kew is the first person of Chinese ethnicity to obtain an LLB and to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor.

1950: Lalbhai Patel is the first person of Indian ethnicity to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor.

1970: In June Ken Mason is sworn in, becoming the first Māori to be appointed a Stipendiary Magistrate (and later District Court Judge until his retirement in 1988).

1972: Georgina te Heuheu (later Dame Georgina) is the first Māori woman to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor.

1979: Mary Finau Tuilotolava is admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 9 February, the first Tongan and Pacific woman to be admitted.

1980: Edward Durie (later Sir Edward) is the first Māori to be appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court.

1981: Avinash Ganesh Deobhakta is sworn in in April as a District Court Judge, the first judge to be appointed of Indian ethnicity.

1987: Margaret Lee is sworn in as a District Court Judge on 29 May, the first judge to be appointed of Chinese ethnicity.

1988: Lowell Goddard (later Dame Lowell) is appointed Queen’s Counsel on 4 March, the first Māori woman and (with Sian Elias) the first New Zealand woman appointed QC.

1995: Lowell Goddard is sworn in as a High Court Judge in December, becoming the first Māori woman appointed to the High Court bench.

1998: Edward Durie is sworn in as a High Court Judge in October, becoming the first Māori man appointed to the High Court bench.

1999: Josephine Kim is admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 17 December, the first Korean woman to be admitted in New Zealand.

2000: Caren Wickliffe is the first Māori woman appointed a Judge of the Māori Land Court.

2001: Denise Clark is sworn in as a District Court Judge on Tematekapua Marae in Rotorua on 2 October. She is the first Māori woman appointed as a District Court Judge and it is also the first time a judge has been admitted to the bench in a ceremony held on a marae.

2002: A’e’au Semikueiva Epati is sworn in as a District Court Judge at Manukau District Court on 22 February, the first judge to be appointed of Samoan and Pacific ethnicity.

Ida Malosi is sworn in as a Family Court Judge on 24 September, the first Samoan and Pacific Island woman. In 2013 she becomes the first woman judge to preside in the Supreme Court of Samoa.

2002: Ajit Swaran Singh is sworn in as a District Court Judge on 4 November. He is the first Fiji-born Indian to be appointed to the District Court bench.

2016: On 1 June Mina Wharepouri is sworn in as a District Court Judge and becomes the first Tongan-born Judge.

On 2 September Soana Moala is sworn in as a District Court Judge, becoming the first Tongan woman appointed to the bench.

2018: In February Justice Joseph Victor Williams begins sitting as a permanent Judge of the Court of Appeal, the first Māori man appointed as a permanent member.

This is the result of our research and all care has been taken not to miss anyone. Please send any additions or comments to geoff.adlam@lawsociety.org.nz.

Last updated on the 13th August 2018