This week something notable and overdue occurred in the Courts of New Zealand. The first all women Court of Appeal bench presided over a case.
Amy Adams posted the following tweet to celebrate this event.
And congrats should go to AG Christopher Finlayson for his strong commitment to having more women on the bench https://t.co/e409B6mffO
— Amy Adams (@amyadamsMP) August 7, 2015
But I am not sure that Finlayson deserves the praise Adams thinks he does. Because the three Judges were actually appointed to the Judiciary by the last Labour Government.
From the Courts of New Zealand website:
The Honourable Justice Ellen France
Justice Ellen France has an LLB (Hons) from Auckland University and an LLM from Queen’s University, Ontario. Before being appointed to the High Court in April 2002 she was a senior legal adviser in the Department of Justice Law Reform Division; Crown Counsel and then Deputy Solicitor-General in the Crown Law Office. She was appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal in June 2006. She was made President of the Court of Appeal with effect from 1 September 2014.
The Honourable Justice Winkelmann
Justice Helen Winkelmann graduated BA, LLB from the University of Auckland in 1984 and was admitted to the bar in 1985. She was a partner at Phillips Fox from 1988 until she began practice as a barrister sole in May 2001, specialising in insolvency and commercial litigation. Justice Winkelmann was appointed a High Court judge in July 2004 and appointed as Chief High Court Judge with effect from 1 February 2010. Justice Winkelmann joined the Court of Appeal bench with effect from 1 June 2015.
The Honourable Justice French
The Hon Justice French was educated in Invercargill and achieved an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Otago in 1981. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford (United Kingdom) and graduated BCL in 1983. On return to New Zealand she practised in the legal firm of French Burt Partners in Invercargill. She has been a member of various Law Society committees. Justice French was appointed to the Court of Appeal on 6 August 2012 …
although she was also appointed as a Judge in 2008 by the last Labour Government and then promoted to the Court of Appeal.
And how strong is Finlayson’s commitment to equality in terms of Judicial appointments? My analysis of fresh appointments (as opposed to promotions) since he became Attorney General suggests that 18 of 55 District Court appointments were female and seven of 25 High Court appointments were male. The total percentage of female judicial appointments made by Finlayson is 31%.
Certainly things have improved from previous decades. But in a profession where since the 1990s over half of graduates are female there continues to be a concerning lack of equality in the ranks of our judiciary.