New Zealand Law Society - Maurice James O’Brien QC, 1929 - 2000

Maurice James O’Brien QC, 1929 - 2000

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Maurice O’Brien, who edited the New Zealand Law Reports from 1991 to 1998, died in Wellington on 13 December 2000 aged 71.

Born in Wellington on 21 July 1929, he was educated at St Patrick's College, Silverstream before attending Victoria University College in Wellington where he graduated LLB in 1952. While at Victoria he was President of the Victoria Students' Association in 1952, and a member of the Victoria University College Council from 1952 to 1957. In 1958 he married Mary Avery and they had three children.

Mr O’Brien was admitted in 1953 and in 1958 he became a partner in the firm of Perry Wylie Pope & Page. He left the partnership in 1969 to become a barrister sole based in Wellington and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1971. As a silk, he was involved in some very high profile cases including Coleman v Myers and Takaro v Rowling, and acted as leading counsel for the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand.

He served as a Council member of the Wellington District Law Society from 1968 to 1979 and was President in 1975. He was on the New Zealand Law Society Council from 1973 to 1975 and served on the New Zealand Law Society's Disciplinary Committee and Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal from 1980 to 1987 and the Ethics Committee from 1979 to 1981. He was also a member of the New Zealand Council of Law Reporting from 1969 to 1974.

One High Court judge referred to Maurice O’Brien as “the saviour of New Zealand Law Reports” for his work in clearing a considerable backlog of cases awaiting editing and reporting.

Speaking at his funeral, David Williams QC said: “Maurice leaves a great legacy for the law. The pages of the Law Reports record his persuasive arguments as counsel and during the 1990s they also testify as to his major editorial contributions.”

A shorter version of this obituary was first published in LawTalk 554, 29 January 2001, page 17.

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