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Judge Michael John Green, 1936 – 2011

By Rachael Breckon

Judge Michael John Green will be remembered for his no-nonsense approach to the bench and courageous attitude towards life.

Born on 21 May 1936 to Jane and Thomas Hillier Green, Judge Green suffered from polio as a child (an event that caused all the schools on the West Coast to close). The illness caused him to spend the rest of his life with a limp.

Never heard to complain or be limited by his physical disability, Judge Green led a full and active life. He played bowls, golf and bridge. He also had “a love affair” with France, often travelling to and exploring many different parts of France.

After completing secondary school at Christchurch’s St Bede's College, he initially studied medicine at the University of Canterbury. Finding that physics wasn't his strongest point, he changed to a law degree. While studying he worked as a law clerk for Layburn and Hodgins at Christchurch.

He graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1959, but finished his professional studies at Otago University in 1960 while he worked for around 18 months as a solicitor for Bannerman Brydon and Folster in Gore.

Judge Green and wife Joan, who he married in 1959 in Christchurch, then moved to Timaru to take up a position as a barrister and solicitor where his four daughters were born. He then established an all-round private practice.

In 1981 he was appointed to the bench in Hamilton as a District Court Judge then was transferred to Christchurch at the end of 1989. He retired on 9 February 1997, then continued to work part-time in a relieving capacity for some years.

Long term friend and associate District Court Judge John Bisphan says Judge Green was “fairly down to earth and straightforward – a stern sort of judge.”

“He was the sort of judge that didn’t suffer fools lightly. But he was a good judge, who was proud to be very competent at jury trials.

“He was generous giving help or advice if you needed it. He wasn’t the sort of judge that was flowery or philosophical – he got to the facts and did that very well.”

An example of a standout ruling by Judge Green was his 1998 decision on a company called Health Pride's "fat busters" and "hunger busters" pills.

The Commerce Commission reported him as saying the pills were "an unconscionable rip-off of an extremely vulnerable section of our society" and the promotion of a Negative Calorie Book as "intellectually and scientifically dishonest".

The case was upheld on appeal to the High Court with the presiding judge commenting on the quality of Judge Green’s ruling, Judge Bisphan says.

A dedicated husband, Judge Green was very proud of his four daughters, Joanna, Sally, Jacquie and Melissa and seven grandchildren Olivier, Saskia, Stella, Lorenzo, Lea, William and Hugo.

Diagnosed with a lymphoma eight years ago, he then battled cancer which eventually deprived him of his sight.

The February 22 2011 Christchurch earthquake condemned his home and he relocated with Joan to Auckland where Judge Michael John Green died on 1 November 2011, aged 75 years.

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Last updated on the 26th July 2018