Judicial appointments announced
Attorney-General Judith Collins KC today announced six judicial appointments, including that of the Honourable Justice Forrest Miller as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
The Honourable Justice Susan Thomas, the Honourable Justice Rebecca Ellis and the Honourable Justice Francis Cooke have all been appointed Judges of the Court of Appeal, while the Honourable Justice Sally Fitzgerald is the new Chief Judge of the High Court and District Court Judge Karen Grau becomes a High Court Judge.
Justice Forrest Miller
Justice Miller was admitted to the bar in 1981 and initially worked for Alexandra firm Bodkins Solicitors before joining Chapman Tripp in Wellington in 1984. He became a partner in 1987 and was appointed to the High Court bench in 2004, becoming executive Judge for the Wellington circuit until 2012.
Justice Miller was appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 2013, where he was responsible for developing electronic casebooks for daily use in criminal and civil jurisdictions. During the Covid-19 pandemic Justice Miller worked with the Ministry of Justice and the profession, leading initiatives to allow courts to operate remotely and to allow courthouses to operate safely under various alert levels. In 2019 the University of Otago awarded the Judge an honorary doctorate for his services to the courts.
In 2022 the Judge was the Inns of Court Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London.
His appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court is effective immediately.
Justice Susan Thomas
Justice Thomas graduated with an BA/LLB (Hons) (Senior Scholar) from Auckland University in 1982 and was admitted to the New Zealand bar in the same year.
She practised as a solicitor with Holmden Horrocks in Auckland before moving to London and being admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales, where she practised for almost 10 years.
On her return to New Zealand in 1995, Justice Thomas joined Minter Ellison Rudd Watts as a senior associate and became partner the following year.
She was a District Court Judge from 2005-2014, during which time she started the Special Circumstances Court in Wellington to focus on the most challenged and marginalised offenders.
Justice Thomas was appointed to the High Court in 2014 and became Chief High Court Judge in 2020, leading it through the Covid-19 pandemic. She has taken a leadership role in the justice system to improve access to justice, and the court’s criminal and civil justice processes. Her appointment as a Judge of the Court of Appeal is effective immediately.
Justice Sally Fitzgerald
Justice Fitzgerald graduated with an LLB (Senior Scholar) from Victoria University of Wellington in 1992 and was admitted to the New Zealand bar in the same year.
She joined the Wellington office of Russell McVeagh in 1992 before moving to London in 1994, where she was admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1999. She worked as a Senior Solicitor at Clifford Chance until 1997, and then at Debevoise & Plimpton from 1998 to 2001.
Justice Fitzgerald returned to Russell McVeagh in Wellington from 2001-2003 before becoming a Senior Associate, Dispute Resolution, at Sydney firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques and being admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2003.
She returned to Auckland in 2006 and became a partner at Russell McVeagh in 2007 before being appointed a High Court Judge in 2016. From February 2020 to August 2023 she was the Auckland Criminal List Judge, with oversight of all criminal jury trials in the Auckland High Court. Her appointment as Chief Judge of the High Court is effective immediately.
Justice Rebecca Ellis
Justice Ellis was admitted to the Bar in 1989. She was a Legal Advisor with the Law Reform division of the Department of Justice from 1987 until 1992 and a senior litigation solicitor at Chapman Tripp in Wellington from 1992 to 1996.
In 1996 Justice Ellis joined the Crown Law Office and was employed as Crown Counsel until her appointment as Director, Legal Services at the Ministry of Economic Development in 2004.
Justice Ellis rejoined Crown Law in 2005 and in 2006 became a team leader of Crown Law’s Tax and Commercial Team and during 2008-2009 she was Manager of the Crown’s Structured Finance Litigation.
She was appointed a Judge of the High Court in 2009, and her appointment as Judge of the Court of Appeal will take effect on 15 January 2024.
Justice Francis Cooke
Justice Cooke graduated with an LLB with Honours from Victoria University of Wellington in 1989, and with a LLM from Cambridge University in 1990. He worked as a foreign solicitor with Ashurst Morris Crisp in London before returning to New Zealand in 1992, where he worked for Chapman Tripp until 1994.
He went to the independent bar in 1994 and acted as junior counsel assisting the Winebox Inquiry between 1994 and 1997. He was subsequently involved in a range of public law and commercial litigation and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2004.
Justice Cooke was appointed a High Court Judge in 2018 and is Chair of the Rules Committee. His appointment as a Judge of the Court of Appeal will take effect on 19 March 2024.
Justice Karen Grau
Justice Grau graduated with an LLB (Hons) from Victoria University of Wellington in 2002, and an LLM from the University of Cambridge in 2014.
She initially worked as a Judge’s Clerk for Hon Justice Glazebrook in the Court of Appeal from 2003 to 2004. From 2005 to 2006 she was Legal Counsel in the Commerce Commission, before commencing practice as a barrister in Stout Street Chambers in Wellington.
Between 2007 and 2015 Justice Grau worked as a Crown Prosecutor at Wellington Crown Solicitor’s office, Luke Cunningham and Clere.
In 2015 Justice Grau joined Crown Law as a Crown Counsel in the Criminal Group. She became a District Court Judge in 2021. Justice Grau’s appointment as a Judge of the High Court will take effect on 29 January 2024.