Court of Appeal Justice Joe Williams

WILLIAMS, Joseph Victor

Court of Appeal Justice Joe Williams

Professional Data:
2014 Judge Survey Score (1-10):  8.0    Ranking (out of 62):  17thJustice Joe Williams


Postion & Titles: Former Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court (1999-2008)
Judge of: Court of Appeal, Wellington, 2017 Appointed High Court Judge  and Court of Appeal judge by Labour governments
Specializations and Professional Interests: Maori, language, indigenous and land rights law, resource managment, environmental law and Treaty of Waitangi issues.  Music and competitive waka.
Professional Comments: Very engaging from the bench, almost familial toward counsel.  New Zealand’s version of ‘Gilligan’, the inept and clumsy oaf you can’t help loving because he goes about bungling the affairs of Court so innocently.  In a judiciary where bench promotions have little to do with merit, idiots do not stand out.  Nice judges do.  Hence, Williams gets high marks despite his significant intellectual and moral handicaps.
Background / Education: Few judges have issued more judgments flawed in elementary law than Justice Joe Williams.  Examples below.  But first, Justice Williams’ extensive Maori and political connections warrant mention.

As an undergraduate student Joseph Williams assisted with the framing of WAI 11 Te Reo Maori claim which made Te Roa Maori the official language of New Zealand in 1987.

Williams J was educated at Lindisfarne College, Hastings.  Justice Williams graduated from Victoria University with an LLB in 1986 and from the University of British Columbia, Canada, with an LLM (Hons) in 1988. Justice Williams joined, and later became a partner in 1990, of the law firm Kensington Swan in Auckland.

After practising as a partner of Walters Williams & Co between 1994 and 1999, Justice Williams was appointed Chief Judge, Maori Land Court in December 1999.  Shortly thereafter Joe Williams was appointed as Deputy Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal. He is currently the Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Justice Williams is a former Vice President of the Maori Law Society and a former President of Te Runanga Roia o Tamaki Makaurau, the Auckland Maori Lawyers Association. His tribal affiliations are Ngati Pukenga and Te Arawa (Waitaha, Tapuika).

Justice Williams (Ngati Pukenga and Te Arawa (Waitaha, Tapuika)) was appointed as a judge of the High Court in October 2008 and is a leading specialist in Maori legal issues.

Justice Williams was the first Maori Law lecturer at Victoria University. He has served as Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court, and as Chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal.

After 19 years on the bench, there are more Williams J rulings which violate basic laws and procedure than would fill several books.  Hence, only three of the more recent ones are provided below, legitimising concerns this judge has not improved with age and experience.

In 2014 Justice Williams granted retrospective standing to the Attorney-General in a civil claim already heard ([2014] NZHC 2886).  Williams reasoned this rule of law and constitutional breach was required “in (the A-G’s) capacity as the State’s principal law officer”, adding this post-hearing grant of standing was necessary to prevent the judicial review being “automatically granted” – this latter reasoning underscoring a lack of logic as well as law.

Again in 2014, Justice Williams recalled and quashed a jury’s verdict in a defamation case, a week after trial, on his own ex parte motion in Smallbone v London ([2014] NZHC 832).  On appeal, the Court of Appeal altogether evaded the unlawfulness of Williams J’s actions by concluding the jury verdict would have been appealed in any event.  How the appellate court knew this is a mystery.  The Supreme Court next refused leave to appeal stating any consideration of the legal question of whether Williams J had lawful jurisdiction to quash a jury verdict on his own motion without hearing from the parties held “no practical benefit” in this particular case ([2015] NZSC 192).

In 2016, Justice Joe Williams issued an unpublished “Minute” in Rabson v Judicial Conduct Commissioner CIV2016 485 781 which awarded costs in favour of all five Supreme Court Justices named as 2nd respondents in the judicial review; Williams’ full reasoning being, “The position is clear that the Judges of the Supreme Court are not properly joined and are struck out accordingly.”  When the order was immediately appealed on the ground section 9 of the Judicature Amendment Act 1972 required the Judges to be named as interested parties, Joltin’ Joe abandoned the file and High Court Justice Clark “reduced” the costs order, again without addressing the lawfulness of the original order.

Degrees: LLB, Victoria University, Wellington, 1986

LLM, University of British Columbia, 1988

Admitted to the Bar: 1986

Personal Data

Born: 1965
New Zealand
Sex: Male
Married: (Gillian Warren) Children:  yes
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences:
Miscellaneous: In 1999, Judge Williams was awarded a Victoria University of Wellington Millenium Prize. That year, he also became the youngest person to have been appointed Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court. The following year, Judge Joseph Williams became acting Chair of the Waitangi Tribunal, a position to which he was permanently appointed in 2004.

Judicial Decisions Online, involving Joe Williams J

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