23 May 2013

Supreme Court judge Robert Chambers dies

6:48 am on 23 May 2013

Justice Robert Chambers, one of New Zealand's highest judges, has died suddenly at his home in Wellington.

Justice Chambers was appointed to the Supreme Court in December 2011.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said the 59-year-old died suddenly in his sleep on Tuesday night.

Dame Sian said she is deeply shocked at the death of a colleague whom she described as dear friend and a great judge who still had much to contribute.

She said it is an enormous loss to the judiciary and a devastating blow to his family, especially his wife Deb.

Dame Sian said Justice Chambers had had a distinguished legal career before he came to the bench, where he showed himself to be a jurist of great ability, diligence and humanity.

In 1975, Robert Chambers graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and in 1978 gained a doctorate from the University of Oxford. He began his career as a barrister in 1981 and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1992.

In 1999, he became a judge of the High Court in 1999 and a judge of the Court of Appeal in 2004.

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson said he is devastated to learn of Justice Chambers's untimely death, as he had only begun what was expected to be a long tenure on the New Zealand's highest court.

Mr Finlayson said Justice Chambers was involved in many other areas outside the judiciary and lived life to the full.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said Justice Chambers was renowned in the profession as one of New Zealand's greatest legal brains.

Ms Collins said his sudden death at such a young age is a significant loss to the legal community and she will remember him for his humanity, terrific wit and way with words.