AG and SG appointed QCs

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today announced Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson and Solicitor-General Michael Heron have been appointed Queen’s Counsel. The rank of Queen’s Counsel recognises outstanding contributions to the legal profession.

The appointments are the first to be made under recent amendments to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, which restored the title of Queen’s Counsel.

“Both Mr Finlayson and Mr Heron have been appointed Queen’s Counsel due to their career achievements and the leading positions they hold among New Zealand’s legal profession,” says Mr Key.

“In New Zealand, it is recognised the Attorney-General, as first Law Officer, is the leader of the legal profession. The office’s responsibilities are of constitutional significance.”

Before entering Parliament in 2005, Mr Finlayson practised law in Wellington for over 25 years, including as a partner at Bell Gully, and became a barrister sole in 2003. He has represented clients in all of New Zealand’s courts and tribunals, including nine appearances in the Privy Council.

“Christopher Finlayson is one of this country’s finest legal minds,” says Mr Key. “His achievements speak for themselves. He is an outstanding barrister and this appointment reflects the responsibility he holds on behalf of the Crown.”

Mr Heron was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1990. He was a partner in Meredith Connell from 2000 to 2007 and then in Russell McVeagh from 2007 to 2012, when he was appointed Solicitor-General.

“Subject only to the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General is the Government’s chief legal adviser and advocate in the courts. A key responsibility of the Solicitor-General is to advise the Government of the day on constitutional questions,” says Mr Key.

“Like Mr Finlayson, Mr Heron is a respected lawyer in the profession and this appointment is a reflection of the responsibility of the office he holds.”

Previous Attorneys-General appointed Queen’s or King’s Counsel:

Rt Hon Paul East, – 1995
Hon Dr Martyn Finlay, QC – 1973
Hon Sir Clifton Webb, QC – 1954
Hon Henry Mason, KC – 1946.

I’m delighted with this long overdue appointment for . As noted, he was one of the pre-eminent NZ litigators with a near record nine appearances before the Privy Council.

QCs are effectively approved by the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, and recommended by a panel consisting of the Presidents of the Law Society and Bar Association.

Finlayson was recommended by the panel in 2005, approved by the Chief Justice, but vetoed by then Attorney-General Michael Cullen (a non-lawyer) on political grounds. It was one of the more malicious acts done by Cullen (whom I generally respect)).

I’m very pleased to see Chris made a QC. He will not remain in Parliament for life, and I am sure will make a great contribution as a QC in future.

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