21 new judges boost diversity, improve access to justice

  • Hon David Parker

Twenty-one new District Court judges have been appointed in a move that will improve access to justice and boost diversity on the bench.

The new judges include replacements for retirements and 10 new positions.

Attorney-General David Parker today announced the 14 judges who can immediately be named, with the remainder to be announced later this year.

“The new judges will help manage the increasing workload in the District Court, improve access to justice and reduce the toll that long delays have on those accessing the courts,” David Parker said.

“It will also mean victims of crime and their families will be able to have their day in court sooner.”

Ten of the new judges are Māori, eight Pākehā, one Māori/Chinese and two Samoan. Twelve of the new judges are women.

 “It’s pleasing to see high quality appointees coming forward from diverse backgrounds. It is important that the judiciary reflects the make-up of the community it serves.”

David Parker said he considered access to justice and further development of specialist/therapeutic courts to be key priorities for the District Court. 

The 2019 Wellbeing Budget allocated $54 million over four years to cover the cost of the new positions. That funding also covered the cost of the additional staff needed to ensure the judges can operate effectively.

Once the new judges are sworn in, the number of District Court judges will increase from the current 155 to 172.

The legislative cap on the number of district court judges was increased last year from 160 to 182 to allow for the new appointments and to leave room for 10 additional appointments in future years.

Media contact: Vernon Small +64 21 849 517

Email: vernon.small@parliament.govt.nz

The 14 judges named today are:

 Turitea Bolstad, barrister of New Plymouth, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Gisborne.

Ms Bolstad’s iwi affiliations are to Ngāti Maniapoto / Ngāruahine. She commenced legal practice as a staff solicitor, first with Trevor Knowsley then Govett Quilliam in litigation of family, criminal, ACC, Māori land and liquor licensing proceedings. In 2003 she became an associate. In 2006 she commenced as a Barrister sole specialising in criminal proceedings in both the District Court and High Court and is approved to level three as a legal aid lawyer. Ms Bolstad is also a NZ Police Detention provider, duty lawyer and Youth Advocate. Since 2010 she has acted for young people in the Rangatahi Court. She was deputy chair of the Social Workers Registration Board from 2013 to 2019 and has been active in both community and Law Society committees.

Judge Bolstad will be sworn in on 27 February 2020 in New Plymouth.

Michelle Duggan, of Nelson, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Christchurch.

Ms Duggan started her legal career in 1991, as a litigation solicitor, at Gibson Sheat in Lower Hutt. In 1997 she became a sole practitioner in the criminal and family jurisdictions, an instructor at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, and a Child Support Review Officer.  Ms Duggan moved with her family to Nelson in 2004, where she continued to work as a sole practitioner, specialising in family law with an emphasis on child law and relationship property.  Ms Duggan is approved as Lawyer for Child, Lawyer for Subject Person and is on the panel for the Central Authority for Hague Convention cases. She was appointed a Deputy Lawyer Member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in 2011.

Ms Duggan has had extensive New Zealand Law Society involvement including as the Nelson branch President, the Chair of the Family Law Section and Convenor of the Nelson branch Standards Committee.

Judge Duggan will be sworn in on 10 February 2020 in Nelson.

Hana Ellis, Barrister of Auckland, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Whangārei.

Ms Ellis is of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou descent. She commenced her career as a barrister sole in 1993 undertaking District and High Court work. Between 1995 and 1998 she was a solicitor at the Mangere Community Law Centre, then from 1998 to 2001 she was an Associate with Recordon & Co practising in criminal, civil, ACC, family, tribunal and mental health matters. Between 2001 and 2010 Ms Ellis was a partner at Otene & Ellis specialising in family law and mental health matters, as well as being appointed as Lawyer for Child and Lawyer to Assist. Since 2010 she has practised predominantly in South Auckland, initially in Quadrant Chambers and, since 2017, at Matariki Chambers, continuing her work in the areas of general family law, Lawyer for Child and Lawyer to Assist, as well as Lawyer for Care Recipient and Subject Person, and in Family Dispute Resolution and private mediation work.

Judge Ellis will be sworn in on 4 March 2020 in Manukau.

Tony Greig, barrister of Rangiora, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with both jury and Family Court jurisdictions to be based in New Plymouth.

Mr Greig emigrated from the UK in 1983, and worked as a Police Officer for his first ten years in New Zealand. In 1997, he joined Wynn-Williams as a solicitor, followed by Glover Sewell in 1999. He then worked for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 2000 to 2002.  Since 2002 he has practised as a barrister. Mr Greig also tutored in criminal law at Canterbury University from 2002 to 2006. He has extensive criminal and Family Court experience.

Judge Greig will be sworn in on 11 February 2020 in Christchurch.

Nicola Grimes, barrister and solicitor of Nelson, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Hamilton.

Ms Grimes was admitted to the Bar in Wellington in 1990, where she worked both in firms and as a barrister. From 2002 she practiced in Nelson at Rout Milner Fitchett before joining Knapps as a senior associate in 2014. In both firms she was responsible for all aspects of family law and regularly received court appointments.

Ms Grimes has been the local Family Law section representative for a number of years, having previously chaired the Nelson Family Courts Association from 2008. She has been the vice-president of the Nelson branch of the New Zealand Law Society since April 2018.

Judge Grimes will be sworn in on 10 February 2020 in Nelson.

Quentin Hix, barrister and solicitor of Timaru, has been appointed as a District Court Judge to be based in Christchurch.

Of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe, Waitaha and Hawea decent, Mr Hix has practised as a barrister and a solicitor since 1989. Commencing practice in Christchurch, in 2002 Mr Hix joined the Timaru practice of Petrie Mayman Clark, becoming a partner in 1994. Since 2004 Mr Hix has practiced in his own firm, now known as Quentin Hix Legal Limited. He has previously been an accredited LEADR mediator, a lay member of the NZ Health Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal and Judicial Officer on the South Canterbury Rugby Union Judicial Committee. He has served in a number of governance roles including as an appointed member of the South Canterbury District Health Board from 2000 to 2009. Current roles include being a director of Dunedin City Holdings Limited, deputy chair of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited and a board member for Presbyterian Support South Canterbury. Mr Hix was appointed the local representative on Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in January 2010, stepping down from that role in mid-2019. He has recently completed just over eight years as a director of Ngāi Tahu Holdings Limited. In August 2018 he was appointed a member of the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group – Te Uepū Hāpai I Te Ora.

Judge Hix will be sworn in on 29 February 2020 at Arowhenua marae near Temuka.

Michelle Howard-Sager, barrister and solicitor of Whanganui, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Kaikohe.

Ms Howard-Sager is of Whakatōhea, Ngāpuhi and Pākehā descent.  From 1998 to 2004 she worked as a family and criminal lawyer for the Whanganui Crown Solicitor.  As a family lawyer, she worked in the areas of care of children and family violence as well as relationship property matters. She also appeared on appeals to the High Court, assisted and ran jury trials, appeared in the District Court in relation to departmental prosecutions and sentencing as a criminal prosecution lawyer.  As a solicitor for the Ministry of Social Development, from 2004 to 2012, she worked with CYF conducting hearings, providing legal advice and assessing business risk. From 2012 until recently she was the Regional Litigation Manager for Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki for the lower North Island, responsible for the management of a team of care and protection and fraud solicitors.

Judge Howard-Sager will be sworn in on 13 February 2020 in Whanganui.

Gordon Matenga, coroner of Hamilton, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Hastings.

Mr Matenga’s iwi affiliations are to Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine and Ngāti Porou. He was a partner in Preston Matenga from 1990 to 2000, a sole practitioner from 2000 to 2004 and a partner in Foster Matenga Milroy from 2004 to 2007, focussing on criminal law, civil law and Māori issues. Mr Matenga worked as a part-time coroner in Hamilton from 1996 to 2007, and from 2007, as a full-time coroner in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. . 

Judge Matenga will be sworn in on 19 March 2020 in Hamilton.

Alison McLeod, barrister and solicitor of Havelock North, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with a Family Court warrant, to be based in Invercargill. 

Ms McLeod was admitted in 1997 and practiced family and criminal law in Porirua.  In 2001 Ms McLeod joined Callinicos Hayward in Napier.  Ms McLeod returned to Porirua in 2003 and commenced work with Catriona Doyle Law Offices.  In 2006 Ms McLeod commenced practice on her own account in Tauranga and in 2010 returned to Hawkes Bay and set up McLeod Hart Law Ltd where, aside from two sojournments with Oranga Tamariki as a Senior Solicitor, she has since practised.

Ms McLeod’s work has included all aspects of family law including care and protection, PPPR, relationship property, and Hague Convention cases.  Ms McLeod is a LEADR trained mediator.  More recently Ms McLeod’s work has focused on complex lawyer for child and counsel to assist matters.

Ms McLeod has been a trustee of Birthright Hawkes Bay, a member of the Hastings Care and Protection Resource Panel and is currently a member of the Standards Committee of the Hawkes Bay branch of NZLS and is the Hawkes Bay representative of the Family Law Section.

Judge McLeod will be sworn in on 20 March 2020 in Hastings.

Bruce Northwood, barrister and solicitor of Auckland, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Palmerston North.

Mr Northwood has affiliations to Te Aupōuri. He is Special Counsel with Meredith Connell in Auckland where he has been since May 2000.  He has both prosecution and defence experience.  He has represented the Crown on many occasions in the Court of Appeal.  In the last few years he has focused on the prosecution of serious drug offending.  He is familiar with jury and Judge alone criminal procedure.  Mr Northwood practiced as a barrister sole in South Auckland (1989-2000) where his practice was mostly criminal law with a preference for defending in jury trials and a small practice in medical disciplinary law.   He worked part-time as a tutor at Auckland University Law School tutoring criminal law and jurisprudence in the mid 1990’s and he previously worked at Sturrock Monteith and Field & Co. Mr Northwood is involved in the sport and (national) administration of cycling. 

Judge Northwood will be sworn in on 21 February 2020 in Auckland.

Rachel Paul, barrister and solicitor of Ohope, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Hamilton.

Ms Paul is of Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Manawa descent. She commenced practice in Opotiki in 1993. She then moved to Tauranga in 1996 working for Holland Beckett as head of the family litigation section. She took two years’ break from legal practice to attend Te Wharewānanga o Awanuiārangi, undertaking total immersion Māori classes. She returned to work for an Opotiki firm in 2005 then joined Francis Eivers in 2006 before commencing her own practice in 2009 in which she specialised in family litigation. During her career, Rachel has worked in the criminal and treaty law jurisdictions for over 10 years.  She acts as Lawyer for Child, Counsel to Assist, Counsel for Subject Person as well as being a Youth Advocate appearing in the Youth Court and Te Kooti Rangatahi.

Judge Paul will be sworn in on 17 February 2020 in Whakatāne.

Brandt Shortland, a coroner for Te Tai Tokerau with iwi affiliations to Ngāti Hine – Te Orewai, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Kaikohe.

Mr Shortland was admitted in 1995 and commenced practice in New Plymouth before relocating to Hamilton in 1996. For the next 11 years he worked regularly in the criminal, youth and family courts with multiple assignments as Lawyer for Child and youth advocate. In 1999, he was made a partner in the firm of Bogers Scott & Shortland. He was also appointed the District Inspector for Mental Health, and later the District Inspector under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act in 2003.

In 2007 he was appointed coroner for Te Tai Tokerau based in Whangārei and was appointed as the first Deputy Chief Coroner in December 2016. He has been involved in policy development around cultural sensitivity, body tissue retention processes, return of tupaapaku to whānau in a timely manner and Koiwi repatriation processes.

Judge Shortland will be sworn in on 18 March 2020 in Whangarei.

Kiriana Tan, barrister of Hamilton, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Manukau.

Ms Tan is of Chinese and Māori descent, with tribal affiliations to Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Mutunga. She is a graduate of Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato – Te Piringa and was admitted to the bar in 1998.  Since 2008 Ms Tan has been a barrister sole.  Prior to that she was an associate with McCaw Lewis, a litigation lawyer with Walters Williams and Co and started practice at East Brewster in Rotorua in 1998.  She has broad litigation experience including an earlier career focused on Treaty of Waitangi claims and is a specialist in all aspects of family law including being an accredited mediator. 

Judge Tan will be sworn in on 18 February 2020 in Hamilton.

Robyn von Keisenberg, barrister of Auckland, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court jurisdiction to be based in Auckland.

Ms von Keisenberg is of Samoan descent and has practiced law for nearly 35 years; the last 25 years have seen her specialise primarily in the area of family law. She has been practicing at the independent bar since 2000 and is the founding member of Wyndham Chambers – a small group of senior family law barristers.   She is a former chair of the Deportation Review Tribunal (2003-06) and deputy member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal (since 2011).  She was the chair of the Family Courts Association for several years and has been a member since 1998. She is president-elect of the Medico-Legal Society for 2020. Ms von Keisenberg has authored and presented a large number of Law Society presentations relating to family law practice.

Judge von Keisenberg will be sworn in on 12 March 2020 in Auckland.