New Zealand Law Society - Our Profession, Our People

Our Profession, Our People

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Wellington lawyer James Johnston has been appointed an Acting District Court Judge with a jury warrant to be based in Wellington. Judge Johnston will be sworn in on 10 June in Wellington. The chairman of partners at Rainey Collins Lawyers, Mr Johnston joined the firm in 1989 and has been a partner since 1994. Before becoming a commercial lawyer, Mr Johnston was a litigator dealing mainly with Treaty of Waitangi claims and also appeared regularly in the Youth Court, District Court and High Court on criminal and Family Court matters. Mr Johnston is a former chair of the New Zealand Law Foundation, having served in that role for five of the 10 years he was a member of the Law Foundation’s Board. Of Ngāti Porou descent, Mr Johnston will be involved in the Rangatahi Courts. These courts are a judicial initiative which operate within the existing Youth Court framework but use a marae-based environment to help young Māori and their whānau engage with the justice system.

Michael Robb has been appointed a Coroner, based in Hamilton. Mr Robb replaces Coroner Peter Ryan who has transferred from Hamilton to Wellington. Before taking up his appointment on 8 April, Mr Robb was a senior prosecutor for the Crown Solicitor firm Almao Douch. He maintained a private criminal litigation practice from 1995 to 2014 and before that was a litigation instructor at the Professional Legal Studies Hamilton office. He has also been a Visiting Justice for the past 10 years sitting at Waikeria, Rangipo and Spring Hill prisons.

Fiona Leonard has been appointed Chief Parliamentary Counsel for a term of five years. Ms Leonard will succeed the current Chief Parliamentary Counsel, David Noble, after he steps down from the role on 6 May. Ms Leonard holds an LLM from Cambridge University as well as a BA and LLB (Hons) from Canterbury University. She has been Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel since July 2013, and acted in the role for two years before that. She has previously worked as an adjunct lecturer at Victoria University, a legal advisor for the Ministry of Justice and as a legislative consultant in the Pacific region. Ms Leonard has also held a variety of litigation roles, including commercial property litigation for London Borough of Hackney, general litigation for Young Hunter, and commercial and civil litigation for Kensington Swan. When announcing Ms Leonard’s appointment, Prime Minister John Key paid tribute to Mr Noble for making “a significant and lasting contribution to New Zealand’s government and legal system.”

Wellington barrister Peter Dengate Thrush has been re-appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) after nomination by the Internet’s global technical community. Mr Dengate Thrush is the former chair of InternetNZ, and immediate past chair of ICANN, the Los Angeles-based global governance authority of the Internet. At ICANN, he led the process to replace direct US Government oversight of ICANN with accountability to the global internet community. He also led the introduction of internationalised (non-English) domain names, the de-regulation of the registry/registrar market, increased security for internet users via the addition of DNSSEC (cryptographic security) to the root of the Internet, and the introduction of a market-driven process for adding new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) These innovations are cumulatively the biggest technical changes to the Internet since its inception.

John Walton was inducted as a Fellow of the International Academy of Mediators at the joint AMINZ/IAM conference in Queenstown in March. IAM is an invitation only body, focused on raising standards in mediation. Mr Walton joins Deborah Clapshaw and Geoff Sharp as the only other New Zealand members of IAM.

High Court lay members

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson QC has announced one new appointment and four re-appointments as lay members of the High Court under the Commerce Act 1986. Lay members assist the Court in cases involving appeals from decisions of the Commerce Commission and other matters under the Commerce Act. The High Court lay members are appointed for five-year terms. The appointees are:

  • Pat Duignan, who has recently retired as a member of the Commerce Commission, having served since June 2010. He has been an expert member of the ACC Investment Committee for the last 10 years.
  • Dr John Small (lay member from August 2003 to March 2014). Dr Small has been a director at the economics and consultancy firm Covec since 2001.
  • Professor Glenn Boyle (lay member from March 2009 to March 2014). Professor Boyle is a Professor of Finance at Canterbury University and a director of the consulting firm Sapere Research Group.
  • Professor Tony Van Zijl (lay member from March 2009 to March 2014). Professor van Zijl is a Professor of Accounting and Financial Management and Director of the Centre for Accounting, Governance and Taxation Research at Victoria University School of Accounting and Commercial Law. He is also a consulting director for Sapere Research Group.
  • Professor Stephen Peter King (lay member from August 2003 to March 2014). Professor King is a Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Business Policy Forum at Monash University in Melbourne. He chairs the Economic Regulation Authority of Western Australia and is a part-time member of Australia’s National Competition Council.

Paul Trisley Award

Entries are now open for the 2016 Paul Trisley Award.

This award is presented each year at the annual Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association (ANZSLA) conference dinner, which will be held this year on 13 October in Wellington.

The award is in memory of Paul Trisley, a highly regarded sports lawyer who died in 2001. It is given to a person who has never presented at an ANZSLA event or been previously published in the ANZSLA Journal, and who, in the judges’ opinion, submits the best paper in accordance with the award guidelines.

Entrants must email their paper in MS Word format to ANZSLA’s executive manager ( by Friday 2 September. Full terms and eligibility conditions are at

Law firm news

Paul Clark has been joined in partnership by Karen Brown. The practice formerly known as Paul Clark Law has changed its name to Clark & Brown Lawyers. Bank account details, telephone, facsimile numbers and location remain unchanged.

Clarity comes to New Zealand

Clarity International, the worldwide association that promotes plain legal language, will hold its 2016 conference in New Zealand.

With the theme The Business of Clarity, the conference will be held in Wellington from 3 to 5 November.

Among the keynote speakers will be retired High Court of Australia Judge Hon Michael Kirby and New Zealand’s Solicitor-General Una Jagose. Both these speakers are well known in New Zealand legal circles.

Another keynote speaker is Professor Emeritus Joseph Kimble, who is well known for his expertise in legal writing. He taught legal writing for more than 30 years at WMU-Cooley Law School and has written two books – Lifting the Fog of Legalese and Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please.

Clarity has more than 650 members in 50 countries. It has two patrons, well-known New Zealand jurist Sir Kenneth Keith and Hon Kirby. For more information on the conference see

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