Former District Court Judge Bernard Cullinane was noted for his acute “mental capacity and great depth of legal knowledge”.
In a eulogy presented at his funeral, son Rodney Cullinane said his father had the ability to “cut very quickly to the heart of an issue notwithstanding the various arguments from counsel on either side.”
“He also often took counsel by surprise in delivering his reasoned decision immediately the case had been heard. He took pride in having researched the subject matter of a case he knew was to come before him in order to ensure that he was familiar with any matters which might have a bearing on his decision.”
Bernard Jeremiah Cullinane was born to farming parents in Dannevirke on 11 November 1922, the eldest of four children. He was educated at Te Rehunga Primary School and Dannevirke High School and at the then Victoria College, graduating with LLB in 1946 and LLM Hons 1947.
His education was interrupted by the war during which he served in the Royal New Zealand Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Navy.
He was admitted to the Bar in March 1946 and worked for a time with Chapman Tripp and with his uncle Dennis Cullinane in Feilding. He and Elizabeth Carter were married in 1950 and he soon moved to Levin where he joined the firm of Park and Bertram. Bernard and Elizabeth went on to have six children.
Bernard Cullinane and Ian Park became close friends as well as colleagues and their practice – Park & Cullinane – thrived through the fifties and sixties as Levin became a vigorous provincial centre. Ian’s untimely death in 1970 was a severe blow.
Bernard was a member of the Manawatu District Law Society for many years and was a Vice-President of the Society. He was a charter member of the Lions Club of Levin and became its president. His practice expanded to be one of the largest provincial practices in the lower North Island.
Towards the end of the 1970s he retired from the partnership and became a barrister sole in Palmerston North. He was appointed to the District Court bench in 1983 and was for many years a circuit judge throughout the country. He was also chairman of the Public Service Appeal Board and the Wellington District Licensing Committee.
Following retirement from the bench in 1990 he co-authored the first revised edition of Dixon’s Road Transport Laws in New Zealand, worked on family and church histories and indulged a lifelong interest in photography.
Bernard was a faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church and was presented with a much-valued Bene Merenti Papal Award by the Vatican in 1991 for exceptional service to the Church. He was a respected and thoughtful practitioner who continued a personal interest in former clients and visited Levin from time to time. In another link with the area he was involved with the Horowhenua Scholarship Trust, an award given to top students from the two Levin secondary schools.
Rodney Cullinane, who came to the law relatively late in life, spoke in his eulogy of his father’s determination to move his son’s admission. “He had long since ceased to hold a practising certificate – a requirement for those moving an admission. Unfazed, he set about with my assistance to organise with the Canterbury District Law Society the issuing of a practising certificate for exactly 24 hours – long enough to accomplish the task and for him to earn warm congratulations from the presiding High Court Judge in the No 1 Court in Christchurch.”
This obituary was published in Council Brief, February 2012, page 3.