New Zealand Law Society - Four different directions in the law

Four different directions in the law

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Rt Hon Sir Alfred Kingsley North KBE KC

One of the founding members of the Court of Appeal and its second President, Sir Alfred (known as “Alf”) was born in Christchurch in 1900. Polio at the age of 13 left him with a life-long limp. From Christchurch Boys’ High School he became a law clerk while studying at Canterbury University College. He began practice in Ashburton in 1921 and subsequently graduated with an LLM. In 1927 Sir Alfred moved to Hāwera, where he practised at Horner and North and continued to develop a reputation as one of the best advocates around.

In 1935 he was recruited by the Auckland firm Earl Kent Massey and North to replace Erima Northcroft who had been appointed to the (then) Supreme Court. “Despite the formidable competition of older-established members of the Auckland Bar he rapidly rose to the front,” says Portrait of a Profession. He continued to rapidly move forwards, becoming a King’s Counsel in 1947, a judge of the Supreme Court on 2 November 1951, and on 26 October 1957 he was appointed one of the founding members of the Court of Appeal. From 22 July 1963 until he retired in 1972, Sir Alfred was President of the Court. He was knighted in the 1964 New Year Honours and made a Privy Councillor in 1966.

In New Zealand Court of Appeal 1958-1996 (Brookers Ltd, 2002), Peter Spiller says Sir Alfred brought to the Court of Appeal a strong personality, courage, energy, and love of the law. “Those who knew him well found him generous, loyal, direct, and down to earth.” After his retirement, Sir Alfred became the first chair of the New Zealand Press Council and he also chaired the Commission of Inquiry into the alleged breach of confidentiality of the police file on Colin James Moyle, MP. Sir Alfred North died in Auckland on 22 June 1981.

Laurence Henry (Laurie) Southwick CBE QC

Born in Fairlie in 1916, Laurie Southwick attended Rotorua High School and graduated LLB at Auckland University in 1942. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1943 while he was on leave from the Army, where he served with the 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific theatre from 1941 to 1944. From 1945 to 1956 he practised with Tompkins Wake in Hamilton and was involved in criminal and civil litigation. In 1950 he joined Nicholson, Gribbin and Co in Auckland, becoming a partner in 1952 and specialising in administrative law. Not long after leaving to practise as a barrister, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1970.

Laurie Southwick was one of the first lawyers to specialise in planning law, which really only started to become an area of specialist practice in the 1970s. He acted for a number of (then) borough councils, particularly in applications and objections to plans both for councils and landowners. Law Stories (LexisNexis Ltd, 2003) says a newspaper report on an appearance before the Mount Wellington Borough Council gave him the title of “Silver Tongued Larry Southwick”. He was a joint author in 1964 with JH Luxford of Luxford’s Liquor Laws of New Zealand, 3rd edition and then in 1983 with Alan Dormer and GR Halford of The Liquor Laws of New Zealand (Butterworths) which won the second JR Northey Memorial Book Award. He was Chairman of the Royal Commission on Containers from 1971-1972.

Laurie Southwick was closely involved in the organised legal profession. He was President of the Auckland District Law Society in 1972 and then from 1977 to 1980 he was New Zealand Law Society President. He was also the first President of the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, a Council member of the International Bar Association and an honorary member of the American Bar Association. He received the CBE in 1994 for services to the legal profession and community. Laurie Southwick died in Auckland on 1 January 1999.

Rt Hon Paul Clayton East CNZM QC

Paul East was born in Opotiki in 1946 and educated at King’s College, Auckland and then Auckland University where he graduated LLB in 1970 and was admitted in January 1971. He then studied at the University of Virginia in the United States, graduating LLM in 1972. He moved to Rotorua to practise in the firm of East Brewster until 1978. Politics was always an interest, and he was on the Rotorua City Council from 1974 to 1979 before being elected to Parliament as a National MP for Rotorua in 1978. “I got a bit bored with law and went into politics,” he later said.

A 21-year parliamentary career followed and Mr East was a Cabinet Minister from 1990 to 1997, serving as Attorney-General for seven years, along with other ministerial roles. He was appointed QC on 17 August 1995 and led the case in the International Court of Justice against French nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in 1998 and resigned from Parliament the next year to become New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in London, from 4 January 1999 to 4 January 2002. “Being High Commissioner was a brilliant way to finish my political career,” he told journalist Jock Anderson in 2019.

He was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to Parliament and the law. Since 2002 he has been chair of the Charity Gaming Association and has also chaired the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Until last year he held a practising certificate and was a consultant to Bell Gully.

Francis Leveson-Gower West, Croix de Guerre

Born in 1890, he grew up in Wellington and began his legal career with Buddle Button, being admitted in 1912. World War I came along and West joined up on 11 August 1914 to begin his military career with the Auckland Infantry Battalion. He served for over five years in Gallipoli, Western Europe and Egypt in what the National Army Museum website describes as a time “punctuated by heroic feats of bravery alongside the horror of severe injuries sustained while in action on the front line”.

As a lieutenant he was one of the officers leading the ill-fated New Zealand charge on 8 May 1915 across open ground at the “Daisy Patch” in Gallipoli. “At 6 foot 3 inches (190 cm) he could be termed a big target”, the website notes. Shot in the throat, Lieutenant West waited in vain for rescue and dragged himself to safety when night fell, giving himself a hernia in the process. With paralysed vocal cords and heavy blood loss, recovery took a long time. He was transported to England in August 1915 and after a year, on 2 September 1916 rejoined the Army in France. After heroic actions at the Somme and the raid at Fleurbaix he was promoted to Major and placed in command of the 3rd Auckland Regiment.

Says the Army Museum website: “In June 1917, during the attack at Messines, he was hit by shrapnel and severely injured once again. He received 29 wounds including injuries to his face, shoulder, arm, stomach and leg. Miraculously he survived and was hospitalised from June to January 1918. Now walking with a limp and with a ‘raspy’ voice, he was attached to the War Office in London to administer aid to Russia and other official business. It was at this time that he was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for ‘distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign’.

West returned to New Zealand on 12 September 1919 and went back to the law. He obtained a Master of Laws at Victoria College in 1920 before returning to Auckland and developing a flourishing practice. From 1928 to 1930 he was President of the Auckland District Law Society and in 1933 was appointed Deputy Judge Advocate General with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His numerous wounds troubled him in later life and Francis Leveson-Gower West died on 19 May 1960, aged 69. His Croix de Guerre is now at the National Army Museum.

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