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Judge Robert Graeme (Rob) Ronayne, 1955 - 2020

By Nick Butcher

District Court Judge Rob Ronayne will be remembered as a fair and empathetic man who tirelessly served the legal profession for over 40 years.

Judge Ronayne died suddenly at his Auckland home on 7 January. He was 64 years old.

In paying tribute to him, Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said Judge Ronayne had given outstanding and excellent service to the law and to the New Zealand public.

“Judge Ronayne was a senior trial judge at the Auckland District Court which had been his home court since his appointment to the bench,” Chief Judge Taumaunu says.

Photo of Judge Rob Ronayne
Judge Rob Ronayne.

Judge Ronayne was appointed to the District Court in 2013. He was sworn in at Tauranga on 22 March 2013.

He joined the bench after 34 years’ legal practice, primarily as a litigator. He studied law at the University of Canterbury and was admitted to the bar in 1978. He practised briefly in Auckland and then for nearly 20 years in Rotorua.

Auckland’s Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey knew Judge Ronayne when he was a junior prosecutor in Rotorua many years ago and found him inspiring.

“At that time, Judge Ronayne was a senior lawyer and law firm partner involved in civil litigation and criminal work. He was always concerned and interested in the development of younger lawyers. I talked to him regularly,” he says.

Casting back over 20 years, to 1998, Judge Ronayne had become a partner and crown prosecutor at Tauranga’s office of the Crown Solicitor, Ronayne Hollister-Jones Lellman and back in those days, he also regularly taught litigation skills to lawyers.

In recent years, Brian Dickey says he appeared before Judge Ronayne as a prosecutor in a number of trial cases.

“He was particularly good to our junior lawyers in that on completion of a trial he would offer to provide feedback and development pointers. He offered this advice to the defence team lawyers as well,” he says.

Judge Ronayne had also been involved in work on the judge-led sexual violence pilot that was running in the Auckland District Court. That pilot which began in 2016 was also held in Whangārei. It was extended indefinitely last year.

“One of his focuses was on ensuring vulnerable witnesses had the right support and understood the processes in court. He had a deep sense of empathy for victims,” Brian Dickey says.

Mr Dickey says he and Judge Ronayne would catch up for coffee from time to time, a meeting he always looked forward to.

“He was a great guy, a hard worker and he will be a huge loss to the bench and the law profession,” he says.

“Judge Ronayne was held in extremely high regard and his judicial colleagues will remember fondly his flair, wit and tireless dedication to serving the administration of justice. My sincere condolences and those of Judge Ronayne’s judicial colleagues are extended to his family and friends at this difficult time,” Judge Heemi Taumaunu says.

Judge Rob Ronayne’s funeral was held on 14 January in Auckland. He has two adult children.

Last updated on the 14th January 2020