High Court Justice Ailsa Duffy


Auckland High Court Judge

Professional Data:

2014 Judge Survey Score (1-10): 8.4    Ranking (out of 62): 2nd Ailsa Duffy Judge

Postion & Titles:  QC
Judge of: High Court, Auckland, appointed 2007 Previously well-connected to various government and bureaucratic functionaries
Specializations and Professional Interests: Worked as a ‘go-go’ dancer in the 1970’s at the old Monaco Club in Auckland.  Justice Duffy knows how to work a room.  See reported decisions (below).Areas of professed legal specialisation include Civil litigation, intellectual property, health and medical, property, public law, Treaty of Waitangi, Trusts, Fisheries, Insolvency and human rights.In private practice, Ailsa Duffy refused to act in cases which called into question government impropriety.  It is uncertain how this personal propensity to make decisions based upon perceived political ramifications as a practicing lawyer is being reconciled with the judicial oath which binds a judge to rule without fear or favour.
Professional Comments: Justice Ailsa Duffy came into the judicial appointment with a vigour and sense of honour which is not common in New Zealand.  Her combination of legal acumen, compassion and pervading sense of justice has won her kudos from many barristers who have appeared before her in her short tenure.Duffy J is also quite adept at playing both sides of the fence effectively.  Duffy J is well connected and knows how to work the system extremely well, particularly one dominated by old men.Justice Duffy’s judicial appointment was preceeded by a two year stint where Duffy J acted as Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s Ian Haynes ‘independent’ expert adviser (along with fellow High Court Judicial appointee Douglas White who was made a judge in 2009 and now sits on the Court of Appeal).  In this capacity, Ailsa Duffy was expected to confirm various formal complaints of judicial misconduct held no merit.  The JCC would then report that he had sought ‘independent’ advice and this advice told him there was no merit to the complaint.  Ingenious really.  JCC could not be held accountable because he truly relied on ‘expert advice’ in finding no judicial misconduct occurred.  AND the ‘expert advisor’ could not be held accountable because he/she had no fiduciary responsibility to the Crown or Parliament.  One hand legally washes the other.

Ailsa Duffy was paid extremely well and proved herself an exemplary performer in this role.  It is widely accepted that her own judicial appointment was because she saved a large portion of the NZ judiciary from scandal or embarassment.

Background / Education: Justice Duffy graduated from Auckland Girls Grammar School and obtained a LLB and then LLM (Hons) from Auckland University.In the 1970’s Justice Duffy worked as a go-go dancer at the old Monaco Club in Auckland.  Justice Duffy practised predominantly as a barrister from 1980-1988 when she joined the Crown Law Office. Justice Duffy returned to the independent bar in 1996 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1998.Justice Duffy also served as the Chair of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into the Under-reporting of Cervical Smear Abnormalities in the Gisborne region.Admitted as Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia in 1986.   LLM (Hons) Master of Laws with Honours, Auckland University in 1995 [Unpublished LLM thesis “Constraints on the Use and Disclosure of Confidential Information Held by the Crown”].
Degrees: LLB, Auckland Univeristy 1977,  LLM (Hon.), Auckland University 1995
Admitted to the Bar: 1979
Company Involvements:

Personal Data

Born: 1956 Sex: Female
Married: 19 Children:
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences:  Her past close relationship with the Judicial Conduct Commissioner of New Zealand virtually guarantees her immunity unless she whips out a gun and shoots someone in her Courtroom before two rolling cameras.  This said, Duffy J has already demonstrated herself as one of the more skilled and fair lawyers on the bench in New Zealand.
Miscellaneous: Comes to the Bench as an ‘old girl’.  Like most judges new on the bench, Justice Duffy has demonstrated a determination to be seen to be fair and reasoned in her rulings.  Too soon to tell whether Duffy J will permanently rise to the noble calling she has been given, but most legal insiders note the tendency of judicial appointments generally to succumb to their base tendencies the longer they are on the bench and increasingly adopt the bad habits of their stolid and unaccountable peers.


Harvey Corporation v Baker [2002] 2 NZLR 213 (Commercial Law, Fair Trading Act 1986)

Official Assignee v Chief-Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries [2002] 2 NZLR 722 (judicial review Fisheries Act 1996)

Proceedings Commissioner v Ali Hatem [1999] 1 NZLR 305 (Partnership Act 1908)

Director of Social Welfare v Disputes Tribunal (1998) 12 PRNZ 639 HC (jurisdiction for judicial review of Disputes Tribunal decision

Peters v Davison (No 3) (1998) 18 NZTC 14, 027 (Judicial review taxation commissions of inquiry)

Rawlinson v Rice (1998) 12 PRNZ 639 (admissibility of reasons for judgment in another proceeding)

Rawlinson v Rice [1998] 1 NZLR 454(ruling on the nature of public officer)

Rawlinson v Rice [1997] 2 NZLR 651 (Strike out misfeasance in public office)

Sigma Agencies Ltd v Collector of Customs (Northern Region) [1997] 1NZLR 467 (statutory appeal Customs Act 1966 re customs valuation)

Cashmere Pacific Ltd v New Zealand Dairy Board [1996] 1 NZLR 218 HC ( s 62 Companies Act 1955, negligence)

Re Collier (A Bankrupt) [1996] 2 NZLR 438 CA (R46 costs awards to lay litigants).

Cooper v Attorney-General [1996] 3 NZLR 480 (judicial review) privative clause judicial review s282GA Fisheries Act (1983)

Davidson v Ross [1996] 3 NZLR 340 (statutory immunity Children & Young Persons and Their Families Act 1990)

Natural Selection Clothing Ltd v Commissioner of Trademarks [1996] 2 NZLR 148 CA (judicial review of Commissioner of Trademarks)

Gazley v Attorney-General (1995) 8 PRNZ 313 CA  (Declaratory judgment Law Practitioners Act)

TV3 Network Services Ltd v Broadcasting Standards Authority [1995] 2 NZLR 720 (privacy principles Broadcasting Act)

Attorney-General v Davidson [1994] 3 NZLR 143 CA (Official Information Act 1982 statutory immunity)

Childs v Hillock [1994] 2 NZLR 65 CA(medical negligence, Accident Compensation legislation)

Talley’s Fisheries Ltd v Minister of Immigration (1994) 7 PRNZ 469 HC (r 78 and joinder of parties)

Attorney-General v Hill (1993) 7 PRNZ 20 HC (vexatious litigant Judicature Act 1908)

Childs v Hillock [1993] NZAR 249 HC, (1993) 7 PRNZ 16 (strike out)

Southern Ocean Trawlers Ltd v Director-General of Agriculture & Fisheries [1993] 2 NZLR 53 CA  (Strike out, judicial review s 28Z Fisheries Act 1983)

Dentice v Valuers-Registration Board [1992] 1 NZLR 720 HC  (Common law absolute immunity of witnesses)

Re Watson (1992) 6 NZCLC 68,181 HC (Declaratory judgment on meaning of s 65 Corporations (Investigations and Management) Act 1989)

Donovan v Graham (1991) 4 PRNZ 311 HC (admissibility of affidavit)

Collector of Customs v Graham [1990] 1 NZLR 615 HC (judicial review, requirements of record of proceedings)

Northern Roller Mill Co Ltd v Commerce Commission  [1990] NZAR 112 HC (s 20 Acts Interpretation Act)

Commerce Commission v Fletcher Challenge Ltd [1989] 2 NZLR 554 HC

(ss 2,47,48,50,51,66,67,84,85 and 89 Commerce Act 1986)

Commerce Commission v Fletcher Challenge (No1) (1989) 2 PRNZ 1 HC (Admissibility of documents)

Commerce Commission v Fletcher Challenge (No2) (1989) 2 PRNZ 5 HC (answers to interrogatories: leave to file during trial)

Commerce Commission v Fletcher Challenge (No3) (1989) 2 PRNZ 10 HC (R490 High Court Rules: nonsuit application)

Commerce Commission v Fletcher Challenge (No4) (1989) 2 PRNZ 15 HC (discovery: waiver legal privilege)

R v Murphy (1988) 3 CRNZ 342 HC (admissibility of confession)

T v Attorney-General (1988) 4 NZFLR 582 HC (Breach of confidence, privacy)

R  v Misitea [1987] 2 NZLR 257 CA (Criminal appeal against conviction and sentence)

Chiu v Richardson [1983] NZLR 513 CA (judicial review Immigration Act 1964)