RIP Justice Robert Chambers

May 22nd, 2013 at 6:13 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:.

The death today of Supreme Court Justice Robert Stanley Chambers (59) has been confirmed by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias.

Senior judicial communications officer Neil Billington told NBR ONLINE Chief Justice Elias is expected to issue a statement soon.

was appointed to the Supreme Court in December 2011, after seven years on the Court of Appeal and five years on the High Court.

Justice Chambers, the husband of leading divorce Queen’s counsel Deborah Chambers (nee Hollings), began practice as a barrister in 1981 and was appointed Queen’s counsel in 1992.

He graduated LLB (Hons) from Auckland University in 1975 and gained a doctorate from Oxford University in 1978.

This is I believe our first Supreme Court Justice to die in office, and 59 is very young. No details on the cause of death but commiserations to his family, friends and colleagues.

The Attorney-General has said:

“Justice Chambers had an outstanding career as a servant of the law, ultimately appointed to the nation’s highest court,” Mr Finlayson said. “I was devastated to learn of his untimely death.”

“I served with him for many years on the Rules Committee of the High Court, and he had recently been appointed to the Council for Continuing Legal Education as the Chief Justice’s representative. He made a great contribution, and had only begun what was expected to be a long tenure on the Supreme Court.”

“He was involved in so many other areas outside the judiciary, and lived life to the full. It is not often one comes across the likes of Justice Chambers in the profession.”

And the Justice Minister:

“I am extremely sad to learn of the sudden death of Justice Robert Chambers.

“He was renowned across the profession as one of New Zealand’s greatest legal brains. His sudden death at such a young age is a significant loss to the legal community.

“I instructed Justice Chambers on many occasions when he was a barrister. I served with him on the Auckland District Law Society Council for a number of years and when he became President, I was Vice-President. I will always remember Justice Chambers’ for his humanity, terrific wit and way with words.

If he had not died at such a young age, he may have carried on as a Supreme Court Justice for the next 11 years or so. A huge loss.

 

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34 Responses to “RIP Justice Robert Chambers”

  1. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    That is terrible news. I always like appearing in front of Chambers J. He was exceptionally bright. Indeed, to make QC in a dozen years is phenomenal.

    My condolences to his family.

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  2. David Farrar (1,855 comments) says:

    Just reflecting that if it were not for his untimely death, he would have had a further 22 years or so on the Supreme Court.

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  3. Stephen Stratford (45 comments) says:

    He was brilliant. We were the same year Stage I law and he was clearly a star even then. Many years later he spoke at our old professor Bernard Brown’s farewell from Auck Uni, at which David Lange also spoke. David was good, of course, but Robert was wittier and smarter. Sad loss.

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  4. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    Just reflecting that if it were not for his untimely death, he would have had a further 22 years or so on the Supreme Court.

    Another 11 years, by my calculations.  Judges of the High Court (which includes Supreme Court judges) must retire at age 70.  Unless I missed something?

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  5. Monty (964 comments) says:

    How is the replacement appointed?

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  6. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    “Don’t expect Chambers J to recuse himself when presented with obvious conflict of interests.”

    http://www.kiwisfirst.co.nz/index.asp?PageID=2145845341

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  7. hmmokrightitis (1,511 comments) says:

    Im almost certain ross that it is just you, the queen and mother Theresa on that pedestal.

    Does it get cold up there?

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  8. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Wasn’t Chambers J one of the judges who said, re the appeal by the Urewera Four:

    “We are not satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice for this court to hear and determine the proposed appeals. None of the matters raised is, when properly analysed, of general or public importance. Nor do we consider a substantial miscarriage of justice may occur if we do not hear the appeals”.

    In other words, there may well have been a miscarriage of justice, but let’s just move on.

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  9. deadrightkev (277 comments) says:

    Mmmm. A New Zealander has died.

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  10. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    How is the replacement appointed?

    At a guess I would say Justice Mark O’Regan, President of the Court of Appeal, would be next up. 

    Technically they could come from anywhere.  The UKSC saw an appointment from the Bar a short while ago, but I don’t think that NZ is that adventurous. 

    EDIT: Mind you, they promoted Susan Glazebrook, so they obviously aren’t picky…

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  11. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    “Technically they could come from anywhere.”

    Seeing you’re my buddy now I’ll put your name forward if you want FE old chap! :)

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  12. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    I’ll put your name forward if you want FE old chap!

    I appreciate the offer, Johnboy, but, to be honest, I don’t really find myself wanting to be a judge.  I much prefer the idea of working for myself than being an employee of the MoJ.

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  13. Nostalgia-NZ (4,911 comments) says:

    ‘Nor do we consider a substantial miscarriage of justice may occur if we do not hear the appeals”.

    Thick as ross69. There was never going to a substantial MOJ in terms of the convicted men, but that is no measure of the impact on the wider community. Surely that isn’t difficult to work out.

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  14. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    Quite right FE. I couldn’t quite imagine the horror of having Judith as my titular head….yuck! :)

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  15. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    Evening Nosty. How is your spleen tonight? :)

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  16. Nostalgia-NZ (4,911 comments) says:

    I apologise.

    My respects also to the late Roger Chambers, his family and friends, a frontiersman in the Auckland Courts and beyond, a New Zealander, deeply satisfied to search for the truth.

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  17. Nostalgia-NZ (4,911 comments) says:

    I’m fine Johnboy. Just got a little distracted by the comments of one your fellow ‘party liners.’ Trust all his going well, tut tut and all that.

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  18. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    We all have our off-days Nosty old chap. :)

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  19. Nostalgia-NZ (4,911 comments) says:

    Well I admit you’ve had a bad run JB.
    Things could change, maybe tomorrow there’ll only be a hurricane through the shearing shed.

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  20. alex Masterley (1,490 comments) says:

    Justice Chambers’ passing is a great loss to the New Zealand legal profession and judiciary.
    He will be missed.
    Vaya con dios Robert

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  21. smttc (692 comments) says:

    The only interaction with Robert Chambers in my 25 years of practicing law was in the early 2000s when my firm appointed Queens Counsel from Auckland to appear before him in a complex trademark case. We acted for a small private computer company up against a listed company offering eftpos services. The instinct of my partners and I was that the decision could have gone either way (no doubt the other party’s lawyers thought the same). Chambers J’s decision was a complete victory for our client on all counts and on reading the written judgment I was struck by the depth and quality of his analysis. It far exceeded what you see in the usual written judgments produced by judges of the High Court. Needless to say. there was no appeal.

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  22. Nostradamus (2,946 comments) says:

    I think my heart must have skipped a beat when I read the sad news about Justice Chambers – I feel incredibly sad.

    Meanwhile, Ross69 says above:

    Wasn’t Chambers J one of the judges who said, re the appeal by the Urewera Four:

    “We are not satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice for this court to hear and determine the proposed appeals. None of the matters raised is, when properly analysed, of general or public importance. Nor do we consider a substantial miscarriage of justice may occur if we do not hear the appeals”.

    In other words, there may well have been a miscarriage of justice, but let’s just move on.

    Hey fuckwit.

    First of all, what a shitty thing to do to piss all over a condolence thread.

    Second, Robert Chambers is many times the intellectual giant you’ll ever be, so you should show him some respect.

    Third, I suggest you read up on the Supreme Court Act 2003:

    13 Criteria for leave to appeal

    (1) The Supreme Court must not give leave to appeal to it unless it is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice for the Court to hear and determine the proposed appeal.

    (2) It is necessary in the interests of justice for the Supreme Court to hear and determine a proposed appeal if—
    (a) the appeal involves a matter of general or public importance; or
    (b) a substantial miscarriage of justice may have occurred, or may occur unless the appeal is heard; or
    (c) the appeal involves a matter of general commercial significance.

    So, your “In other words, there may well have been a miscarriage of justice, but let’s just move on” has been noted, and you’ve been promoted to the lofty heights of “village idiot” – congratulations.

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  23. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Robert Chambers is many times the intellectual giant you’ll ever be

    “At the earlier trial Justice Robert Chambers told the jury to acquit [Philip] Sturm of the stupefying charges, saying none of the complainants was ever in a state of stupor as he defined the term….both Sturm and the Crown appealed to the Court of Appeal.”

    So, it appears this intellectual giant caused a mistrial because he defined stupor in a way peculiar to himself. The accused was subsequently convicted of stupefying at his retrial.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10376819

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  24. Chuck Bird (4,682 comments) says:

    It is fair enough that Justice Chambers gets credit for his written decisions. It is a shame that all judges are not required to put their directions in writing I really resent that my taxes go to pay lazy judges that cannot be bothered putting their directions in writing. Some of these judges are on well over $400k and are unaccountable.

    I think the majority of judges are good like the police. However, justice should be seen to be done without favour. It certainly is in my experience that there are some bad judges who may well favour someone they know and they do not have to declare a conflict of interest.

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  25. AG (1,784 comments) says:

    @ross69,

    So, it appears this intellectual giant caused a mistrial because he defined stupor in a way peculiar to himself. The accused was subsequently convicted of stupefying at his retrial.

    Every judge … and I mean EVERY judge … gets something wrong at some point in her or his life. But when marking their passing from this mortal realm, it is customary to remember them for their better qualities and join with those who loved them in mourning their passing.*

    So, can’t we agree that Robert Chambers, like all of us, made errors as well as did good … but who on the whole, taken in the round, examined over its whole course, lived a life and made a contribution that is worthy of our marking respect and pausing to remember?

    *Exceptions may be made for monsters – there should be no tears (fake or otherwise) to be shed for the passing of Hitler, etc.

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  26. Chuck Bird (4,682 comments) says:

    “Every judge … and I mean EVERY judge … gets something wrong at some point in her or his life.”

    If that is right we are we forced to treat judges as some type of deity.

    This undermines people being able to represent themselves.

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  27. lazza (358 comments) says:

    Yes He was a warm, friendly, brilliant human guy. I worked with Robert pro bono (and with Justice Baragwanath) on a claim fors hareholders defrauded by crooks inthe 87 crash. He gave his time and skills freely and without favour. My condolences to his wife and extended family.

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  28. flipper (3,562 comments) says:

    I never had contact with Chambers or his work.
    But reading most of the comments above it is clear that he was a giant of the New Zealand fraternity, taken in his prime.
    My sympathy is with his family, and his friends.

    Like or not, Judges are human. Humans (as do computers if the input is garbled or false) make mistakes. Often, and we have quite a few recent examples, it is the policing/legal/judicial complex that gets it wrong (or conspired, with deliberate malice), that traps them, and leads otherwise well qualified and intentioned Judges down the wrong side of the road, so to speak.

    But while there may be the odd judicial error (usually correctable, and I am not referring here to Chambers), I simply cannot understand why trolls like Ross69 emerge at times like this.

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  29. Chuck Bird (4,682 comments) says:

    flipper, are you a lawyer?

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  30. flipper (3,562 comments) says:

    Chuck…
    Do I need to practice law?

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  31. Chuck Bird (4,682 comments) says:

    Flipper, your answer indicates you may be.

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  32. Tauhei Notts (1,609 comments) says:

    Ross69 has been vilified with his posts on this subject.
    But the attachment to his 7.48 p.m. post is what helps make Kiwiblog the best place on the net.
    I come here to learn, and also be entertained by Nasska’s jokes. Ross69 helps me learn.

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  33. Chuck Bird (4,682 comments) says:

    @Tauhei Notts

    I had read the attachment. It is a shame that all judges were not taught to use common sense and logic rather than try to show how clever they are like legal academics who would write two pages defining the meaning of a word.

    Math and formal logic should be a prerequisite to becoming a lawyer of a senior police officer investigating crime.

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  34. Louise (1 comment) says:

    Robert Stanley Chambers was a good servant of the establishment and statute law. Described as one of New Zealand’s greatest legal brains, a way with words! People relied on Chamber J to deliver judgements based on facts but his subjective thinking clouded his judgement causing pain and suffering to people who relied on objective thinking – which he did not have.

    Justice Mahon had a brilliant legal mind and a passion for the law to deliver a fair and right verdict based on objective thinking and that no one is above the law. A statue of Justice Mahon should be erected to remind us all that there are Judges who do the right thing without fear or favour.

    We need a replacement Judge like Justice Mahon.

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