Appointment as the next Chief Justice is a great honour, bringing with it significant responsibility, Justice Helen Winkelmann says.
In a statement following announcement of her appointment to succeed Dame Sian Elias in March 2019, Justice Winkelmann has noted the importance of the role to the functioning of New Zealand's judicial system.
She says the courts, like the other branches of government, face the challenge of responding to an increasingly complex and diverse society. As Chief Justice, she intends to continue the work of the present Chief Justice in supporting the judiciary’s response to these challenges while preserving its critical independence.
“An independent, and skilled judiciary is vital to the health of our democracy. So too a judiciary that has a good understanding of, and remains connected to the communities which make up New Zealand.”
Justice Winkelmann says the legitimacy and authority of the courts depend on public trust and confidence.
“I believe that it is part of the role of judicial leaders to promote understanding of the role of the courts, the work that judges do and the importance of having courts that are accessible to all.”
She says she intends to continue her focus on issues affecting people's ability to access the courts to seek justice.
“Access to justice is the critical underpinning of the rule of law in our society: it is the notion that all, the good, the bad, the weak, the powerful, exist under and are bound by the law. That condition cannot exist without access to courts, and without the ability to obtain a just resolution of claims before those courts. Cost, delay and a lack of representation all can act as barriers to justice.”