22 Jan 2020

Māori dominate in new appointment of district court judges

1:06 pm on 22 January 2020

The naming of 11 Māori as new district court judges will inspire rangatahi to consider a career in the law, says the Māori Law Society co-president.

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept, court

Photo: ikiryo/123RF

Fourteen new judges were announced yesterday, with another seven to be revealed later this year.

Attorney-General David Parker said the move was aimed at improving access to justice and boosting diversity in the courts.

Māori Law Society co-president Marcia Murray said it was humbling to see a shift in a new direction.

"It's tremendous. I think, for myself, I was totally excited about this new direction that we're seeing," she said.

"Kua oho te wairua, patupatu te manawa. It lifted my spirit and made my heart race, so it's awesome."

New Zealand currently has 159 district court judges.

Murray said the appointment of 11 Māori judges would inspire young Māori pursue a career in the legal profession.

"The appointment of 11 Māori judges to the district court bench alone is not going to solve all the problems of the justice system," she said.

"However, with each new Māori appointment it not only lifts the mana of that individual and their whānau but also lifts the mana of their hapū and iwi as well, casting a wider net, engaging more people in the kaupapa, and inspiring rangatahi or youth to consider careers in the legal profession so they can see people like them making a difference."

She was confident appointments of Māori in the higher courts could also be expected.

"Last year, Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said that it's time for transformative change," Murray said.

"Well perhaps the waves that he is making in the district court will have a ripple effect on some of our senior courts where numbers of Māori judges still remain very low.

"We are confident that the growing pool of Māori judges means that appointments in the higher courts can be expected in the foreseeable future."