Dr Don Inglis QC, recently described by Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier as “one of the giants of family law jurisprudence in New Zealand”, passed away on 26 April 2008. When appointed to the Family Court bench soon after the court’s establishment in 1981, Dr Inglis was the first silk in New Zealand to accept a District Court judicial appointment. Earlier, Dr Inglis had been a Professor of Law at Victoria University.
A tribute to Dr Inglis and his book New ZealandFamily Law in the 21st Century in LawTalk 704 (17 March 2008) read as follows:
The latest comprehensive textbook on family law in New Zealand is a "taonga", according to Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier.
"The work of the Family Court and how it operates must be conveyed to all New Zealanders as easily as possible," Judge Boshier said during the launch of New Zealand Family Law in the 21st Century by Dr Don Inglis.
"Your text is so very readable that it is not only professionals who will consult it. Many ordinary New Zealanders will read it in order to understand what is required of them under the law and the obligations owed them by others."
Judge Boshier's comments came during an event at the Napier Club on 19 February 2008 that had two main objectives. The first was to launch the Thomson Brookers-published book and the second was to acknowledge and honour the service of retired Family Court Judge Inglis in Hawke’s Bay and his contribution to family law in New Zealand.
Hawke’s Bay practitioner Dugald Matheson mooted the idea for an event to mark the launch of the book.
What had originally been envisaged as a quiet night to acknowledge Judge Inglis grew very quickly into a formal event, according to one of the organisers, Napier solicitor Maurice Casey. Around 48 to 50 people were present, he said. Although they were predominantly from the family law area, they also came from the wider profession.
Judge Inglis began visiting Hawke’s Bay from very early in the life of New Zealand's Family Court, which was established in 1981, until he retired in 2003, Dugald Matheson said.
During that time, "Judge Inglis developed the law very extensively. We in the Hawke's Bay, especially those who have been part of the Family Court since its inception, have very fond memories of Judge Inglis.
"When he was writing the judgments that were developing the jurisprudence of New Zealand's family law, we were fortunate enough to be participants – or, more accurately, bystanders, as he teased ideas from us.
"It was quite a heady environment to work in. It made for lively and entertaining practice of family law," Dugald Matheson said.
During his speech at the launch, Judge Boshier described Dr Inglis as an "absolutely singular" person.
"Ever unassuming and self-effacing, Dr Inglis is one of the giants of family law jurisprudence in New Zealand," he said.
"In your preface, you refer in your very first paragraph to your earlier text on family law, which was completed in 1970. I cannot let this pass without comment.
"Many of us were lectured by you in family law in the Hunter Building at Victoria University in the early 1970s. The two essential texts on family law, parts I and II, that guided our education in this area of the law, were definitive texts – not just on family law as it then existed in New Zealand but in relation to its origins as a distinct branch of the law.
"Like New Zealand society, family law has moved on to change enormously over the years. You express this so appositely in your preface when you say, 'Family Law and practice in New Zealand have … moved into a different era: transformed, developed and reinvigorated out of all recognition'," Judge Boshier said.
"Your continuing interest, lifetime experience and sheer intellectual capacity have now enabled you to produce a text on family law in New Zealand that brings us up to date with all the most recent and significant developments.
"At a time when the Family Court is the second busiest court in New Zealand – despite the relative smallness of its bench – and where there is sustained interest in the work we do and how we go about it, this text will be widely read and consulted," he said.
Another person present on what Judge Boshier described as "an historic occasion" was Judge Paul von Dadelszen, who also made a significant contribution to New ZealandFamily Law in the 21st Century.
In his preface to the work, Dr Inglis said he owed Judge von Dadelszen, who had read every word of every draft since the work was started in 2005, an "overwhelming debt".
"His regular flow of comment, criticism and encouragement has avoided many of the errors of commission and omission. He has changed my thinking on a variety of issues and, in addition to all that, has provided a great variety of valuable material," Dr Inglis said.
This article was first published in LawTalk 708, 19 May 2008, page 4.