12 Nov 2018

Law society surprised by resistance to use of te reo in court

11:07 am on 12 November 2018

The Māori Law Society is surprised to hear about the use of te reo Māori being questioned at the High Court.

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Justice Timothy Brewer queried a crown law officer after she delivered her introduction in te reo Māori.

The Māori Law Society co-president Glenn Tootill said it was not unusual for te reo Māori to be used during introductions.

"In this particular situation she had actually given a explanation of what she had given in te reo Māori."

He understood it was a bit of different when entire submissions were given in te reo Māori.

"As with the situation here it was a brief introduction so it was a bit surprising to read some of the comments of the judge."

The Māori Language Act guarantees the right to speak te reo Māori in legal proceedings.

The Māori Law Society co-president Marcia Murray said for Crown lawyers an introduction in te reo Māori was a small step towards achieving that duty.

And more importantly, Ms Murray said all lawyers should be supported by the judiciary to speak te reo Māori.

Te Hunga Rōia Māori noted that the government was going through the process of selecting the next chief justice.

"We would expect that the minimum criteria for appointment of New Zealand's most senior judge would include a demonstrated commitment to understanding tikanga Māori and te reo on its own terms," Ms Murray said.