Supreme Court Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann

Winkelmann, Helen Diana

Chief Justice Helen WINKELMANN

Professional Data:

2014 Judge Survey Score (1-10):  8.0   Ranking (out of 63):  18th  
winkelmann, Helen

Position & Titles: Chief Justice of Supreme Court of New Zealand, 2019 
Previously: Chief High Court Judge, appointed 2009, High Court, Auckland, since 2004
Specializations and Professional Interests: Insolvency law, commercial litigation and medical law.
Professional Comments: Winkelmann J has evolved since her appointment in 2004 when one well-placed barrister called her “the most virtuous girl in the brothel” because of her willingness to support the rule of law in cases which threaten the absolute authority of court partisans.  Not uncommon for NZ judges after the nobility of the appointment wears off, this no longer distinguishes Justice Winkelmann from most of her judicial colleagues who have little reservation ruling to suit personal financial interests and agendas.

Helen Winkelmann J is timid and dowdy by nature and tries to cover this up with the latest in personal makeovers.  She is bright in the ‘concert-pianist-who-cannot-tie-her-shoes’ way, frequently erring on fundamental, common sense issues.  As an example,  Winkelmann J was the High Court Judge who revoked bail in the ill-fated ‘terrorist’ prosecution by the NZ Police of 18 mostly Maori citizens in October 2007 after Auckland District Court Bouchier granted one of the accused, Jamie Lockett, bail.  To support her revocation of bail, Justice Winkelmann emphasised the danger of letting Lockett free by reading for news cameras in the courtroom jaded excerpts from a “court suppressed police affidavit” – at the same time Police were raiding citizens’ home and businesses for reporting facts in this affidavit which underpinned the search and arrest warrants.

The prosecutions of Lockett and 12 others all of whom were originally held without bond were later dropped.

These faux pas, including more below, provide insight into Winkelmann’s unspoken personal desires.  They are rarely reported in New Zealand yet most of the relative few quietly challenged by appeal have been overturned.  This worries many who fear Winkelmann’s appointment to the ultimate arbiter seat of Chief Justice will greatly increase the number of inconsistent court precedents, creating unmendable moth holes in the legal fabric of New Zealand society.

Poor personal judgment has repeatedly cast a pall over Justice Helen Winkelmann’s seemingly sincere attempts to present herself as more conscientious than her peers.

Perhaps Justice Winkelmann’s greatest character weakness is her proclivity to keep judicial actions and rulings secret.  In the Operation 8 trials (Urewera 18 defendants) which brought condemnation from the United Nations for the police assault on Maori separatists labelled as ‘terrorists’, Helen Winkelmann routinely issued unreasoned suppression orders, often by phone without application from any party.  One classic example was when Winkelmann J issued her judgment finding many of the Urewera police warrants illegal (R v Bailey CRI2007 085 7842, 8 September 2009) but then suppressed it on her own initiative and, when challenged, issued a 9 October 2009 Minute which admitted, “(the applicant) is correct that no reasons are given in the judgment for making the suppression orders. Suppression orders, and in this particular form, are made on a daily basis in the Courts throughout New Zealand, in the context of the determination of pre-trial hearings, or in the determination of appeals where a retrial is likely.”

Three months later, on 10 December 2010, again by suppressed judgment, Helen Winkelmann J denied all the accused Urewera defendants trial by jury on the ground jurors “would likely use improper reasoning processes” in performing their duties.  Winkelmann, as is her custom, gave no reasons for suppressing her ruling.

Even after Winkelmann’s secret ruling was exposed publicly, no one in the NZ lawyer community raised alarm at this judicial assault upon the jury system, transparency in a criminal trial and intelligence of NZ jurors other than, surprisingly, police prosecutor Ross Burns who wrote in respect to the public suppression order, “It seems to me that the decisions as to mode and location of trial cannot possibly prejudice the fair trial rights of the accused, and are a matter of genuine public interest.”

Justice Helen Winkelmann staunchly considers it is every judge’s right to publicly suppress their actions and rulings.  This trait was instrumental in Winkelmann’s peers supporting her promotion to Head of the High Court Bench in 2009, where culling from the front of the herd and promoting from the back ensures survival of the less scrupulous.

Consistently since late 2007 Winkelmann J has demonstrated a worrisome tendency toward unduly protecting the Crown and powerful interests from legal accountability, often in secret.

Winkelmann J will rule according to law and facts in most cases where political pressure is not brought to bear, where she has not suppressed the court proceeding and the island press in New Zealand can get their minds off celebrity sightings to report.  However, her extreme sensitivity to Crown interests and against disclosing corruption by public officials routinely compel her to conceal not only the corruption but the court proceedings which attempt to unmask it.  Along with the Operation 8 prosecutions, Winkelmann’s protracted involvement in the high profile Kim Dotcom copyright and extradition case provide a microcosm of her inexplicable judicial approach.

With the eyes of judicial watchers abroad upon her in 2012 and 2013, Winkelmann shocked local Dotcom observers by ruling the Police search warrant and seizures were unlawful on grounds they lacked specificity.  However, mindful of legal precedent in New Zealand, Winkelmann sought to keep the relevant law nebulous by ruling judicial discretion was central to any judicial finding because each search warrant is unique.  Notwithstanding her legal gymnastics, Winkelmann’s ruling was overturned on appeal (CA420/2013 [2014] NZCA 19).

Again in the Dotcom case in 2014, on application by the Crown prosecutors to gain access to a NZ Herald reporter’s sources on a Dotcom book, Justice Winkelmann ruled that the privacy exemption for news media related specifically to “articles and programmes” and did not extend to “books”.  Legal pundits not left speechless were openly aghast at the surgically literal interpretation of a lawful right.  The Decision was so legally inept that the Crown chose not to enforce her judgment despite having applied for it!

In 2010, Winkelmann J was appointed to a Judicial Conduct review panel by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson – an admitted protege and close mate to then-Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson – to investigate Wilson’s conflict of interest when Wilson was a Court of Appeal judge, primarily because Winkelmann could be counted on to cover up the worst evidence.   This appointment occurred after retired High Court Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson was enlisted by the NZ government amid great fanfare as the independent arbiter in the scandal.  Gleeson returned to Australia months later in the middle of the night after advising the government judicial conflicts were the norm in NZ.  Gleeson’s report has never been made public and Official Information Act requests receive the response it was never adopted or used and therefore not accessible.

Supreme Court Justice Wilson resigned before the panel convened.

In 2010, and again in 2011, Justice Winkelmann was caught giving instructions to one-side’s counsel outside of proceedings.  In 2012, a judicial review was filed against the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s dismissal of a formal complaint for one such episode.  The JCC’s dismissal stated his office has no power due to s 8(2) of his governing legislation to investigate complaints which challenge the correctness of a judicial decision.  A new judge supervised by Winkelmann J summarily struck out the judicial review ahead of any defence being provided by the Commissioner, saying she accepted the Commissioner’s ‘submissions’ the judicial review held no merit ([2012] NZHC 2710).  Appeal was prevented by a security for costs order, upheld by a Supreme Court judgment which evaded mention of the legal question whether judges can prevent judicial review by relying entirely upon submissions of the respondent Crown authority – i.e. without any evidence or defence being filed ([2013] NZSC 113).

Justice Winkelmann J would have close connections with banks and key businesses from her legal practise.   She has delivered a number of Auckland District Law Society seminars on aspects of company law including creditors remedies and fiduciary duties.

In late 2011, Chief High Court Judge Winkelmann ordered a media-taped conversation in a public cafe between Prime Minister John Key and Act MP John Banks suppressed after the Prime Minister objected to its pending publication.  Her reason was she did not have enough information to allow publication.  Ironically this legal rational for not allowing publication is universally a basis for not granting extraordinary remedies such as injunctive relief.

Over months in late 2012 and 2013, Justice Helen Winkelmann gave a series of interviews with New Zealand Herald reporter David Fisher, to promote the common theme that NZ judges are accountable and no accountability legislation is necessary.  In two interviews Winkelmann J stressed the legal requirement judges give reasons for their decisions already provides sufficient checks on errant exercise of judicial powers. The interviews prompted complaints against Winkelmann J to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner alleging she was actively misleading the public regarding judicial realities in New Zealand given her own history of not providing reasons for, and suppressing, many of her own rulings.  All complaints were procedurally dismissed by the JCC who claimed he lacked jurisdiction to investigate.

Background / Education: Graduated BA, LLB from the University of Auckland in 1984 and was admitted to the bar in 1985. Winkelmann J was a partner at Phillips Fox from 1988 until she began practice as a barrister sole with Shortland Chambers in May 2001, specialising in insolvency and commercial litigation. Justice Winkelmann was appointed a High Court judge in July 2004.
Degrees: BA, LLB Auckland 1984
Admitted to the Bar: 1985
Company Involvements: Current Director: Burmese Investments Ltd,Former Director: All The Answers Ltd, NZ Telemed Services Ltd, Phillips Fox Solicitor Nominee Company Ltd.

Justice Winkelmann has been a trustee of the Starship Foundation and the Lynfield College Development Trust.

Personal Data

Born: 1959
New Zealand
Sex: Female
Married: 19
Martin James
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences:  Helen Winkelmann J has significant relationships with many New Zealand bankers, accountants and senior lawyers which may cloud her judgment and rulings.  Do not expect her to disclose these relationships when and where they pose a conflict of interest in her presiding.


The Judges of the High Court | Courts of New Zealand
Justice Helen Winkelmann graduated BA, LLB from the University of Auckland in 1984 and was admitteed to the bar in 1985. She was a partner at Phillips Fox … – 46k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

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and the community. In July, Helen Winkelmann. was a named a High Court. judge. Helen was a partner. for a number of years with. Phillips Fox, which provides … – Similar pages – Note this

Killer threw rocks from bridge before – 07 Jul 2006 – NZ Herald …
Shortly before the jurors retired to consider their verdict, Justice Helen Winkelmann told them to put their emotions to one side. … – 35k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

Justice Helen Winkelmann, Kiwis First – Judge Helen Diana …
Justice WINKELMANN, Helen Diana … Justice Winkelmann was appointed a High Court judge in July 2004. Degrees: BA, LLB Auckland 1984. Admitted to the Bar: … – 27k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

AWLA September 2004.indd
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Dean and Helen Winkelmann. on their recent appointments. as, respectively, Queen’s Counsel …. Justice Helen Winkelmann appointed to the High Court … – Similar pages – Note this

Colourful affair as Iti appears in court – Terror Raids – The …
17 Oct 2007 … Hearing the Crown’s appeal, Justice Helen Winkelmann said Judge Bouchier had failed to take into account Lockett’s previous offending while … – Similar pages – Note this

Crown claims activist declared war on NZ – Terror Raids – The …
Justice Helen Winkelmann said Judge Bouchier had failed to take into account that further “more serious” charges could be against Lockett under the … – Similar pages – Note this
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Auckland District Law Society – Seminar Papers – Seminar papers – 2001
Helen Winkelmann, Professor Charles Rickett. Conveyancing Pot Pourri II. 20/11/01. Mark Hornabrook, Dave Chapman, Sean Gollin … – 181k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

Auckland District Law Society – Seminar Papers – Seminar papers – 2000
Helen Winkelmann, Michael Bos. Wills, Trusts & Estates. 18/7/00. Graham Stevens, Richard Taylor and. Paul Windeatt. Property & Business Valuations. 27/7/00 … – 181k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal
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The application by counsel acting for Mr Karpik, Ms Helen Winkelmann,. is for the following orders pursuant to Section 106 of the Act: … – Similar pages – Note this