Conference set to answer the big questions about NZ’s highest power

by Sophie Schroder05 Nov 2014
Some of the country’s most distinguished legal scholars are set to speak at a major conference on the first ten years of the New Zealand Supreme Court.
The conference, hosted by the University of Auckland’s law school, will be held on November 14.

It will provide a unique opportunity to consider how the Supreme Court has been performing ten years on, the extent to which it has met its original objectives, and what trends and characteristics can be discerned from its first decade in existence.

One of the speakers, professor at the law school Michael Littlewood, told NZ Lawyer that the establishment of the Supreme Court and the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council marked a key step in New Zealand’s constitutional and political development.
“At the time, the pros and cons were much debated. Since then, however, not much seems to have been said as to either the establishment of the Court or its functioning,” he says.
“The tenth anniversary of the Court’s establishment seems an obvious time to pause, to reflect, and to attempt a somewhat systematic assessment of both the decision to establish the Court and the contribution the Court has made.”

The first two sessions of the conference will consider the establishment, role and functioning of the court, while the rest of the day will be given over to the emerging jurisprudence of the court in the most important areas of New Zealand law.

Each speaker is set to present his or her conclusions briefly in order to enable a wide variety of leading practitioners, academics and judges to contribute to the discussion.
Although debate is sure to be robust, Littlewood says in his own view -with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight - the decision to establish the Court was “clearly the correct one”.
“And, whilst one might debate the merits of particular decisions, the Court has, with respect, done a tremendous job,” he says.
“We have been fortunate to assemble a terrific team of contributors and registrations have exceeded our expectations – a very large number of very distinguished lawyers, judges and academics are coming. I am consequently looking forward to a really great event.”
Other speakers include Sir Peter Blanchard KNZM, Former Justice of the Supreme Court; Professor Margaret Wilson DCNZM; University of Waikato, Max Harris, Rhodes Scholar, University of Oxford former Judge’s Clerk at the Supreme Court; and Sir Grant Hammond, President of the Law Commission.