Court of Appeal President Stephen Kos


Court of Appeal President John Stephen Kos

Professional Data:   

2014 Judge Survey Score (1-10): 8.4   Ranking (out of 60): 4th 

Postion & Titles: Queens Counsel, former Pro-Chancellor of Massey University and Honorary Lecturer in Law at Victoria University
Judge of: President of the Court of Appeal since July 2016.

Court of Appeal, since 2015.  

High Court, Wellington, appointed April 2011

Specializations and Professional Interests: Commercial and environmental litigation
Professional Comments: FROM KOS’ BIO: Justice John Stephen Kós QC is a prominent trial and appellate lawyer who has handled many commercial and environmental cases. These cases include Saxmere v Wool Board (allegations of judicial bias), counsel assisting Parliament’s Privileges Committee hearing into pecuniary interests of the Rt Hon Winston Peters MP, Aoraki Water Trust v Meridian Energy (legal status of Meridian’s Waitaki water permits), Methanex v Spellman (arbitration and natural justice); Yabaki v President of Fiji (relating to the dismissal of Fijian Prime Minister), Transpower v Meridian Energy (contractual status of “posted” terms), Grant v Victoria University (claim against a university for negligent teaching), Cousteau v Cousteau (“own name” passing off claim), Marlborough District Council v Tranz Rail (“fast ferries” wash enforcement action) and Attorney-General for Hong Kong v Reid (Privy Council judgment holding that bribes are held on constructive trust for an employer).

Mr Kos was senior counsel for the Crown in relation to Maui Gas Field issues since 1999.  Stephen Kos appeared as a lawyer in the Supreme Court and Privy Council eight times.

KIWISFIRST: Kos is an intelligent and well-presented presence on the bench.  He is also the consummate insider with an overriding commitment to protecting the status quo first.  As a lawyer and as a judge Stephen Kos has demonstrated a strongly parochial concept of the law and justice which favours the wealthy and well-connected (more on this below). Kos J routinely relies upon ‘brevity’ in his judgment to obscure the infringements of law he finds inconvenient.  The distilled writings of Kos J can commonly be fiction but the judge justifies his legal indiscretions as miniscule compared to his native Hungary but this simply accentuates how much he is out of touch with English law, as well as resurrection of the law since his family left eastern Europe.

Kos J’s self-admitted jaded view of the law is accompanied at times with a chutzpah which appears to have few bounds.  One example was Kos’ 2013 strike out of a Judicial Review of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s refusal to consider a conflict of interest complaint against High Court Justice Mary Peters on grounds an investigation into the judge’s conflict of interest would question the judge’s decision and therefore fell outside the Commissioner’s jurisdiction.  Kos’ summary strike out judgment belittled the Applicant and obscured their identity with misrepresented initials before his judgment ruled the Judicial Conduct Commissioner has no jurisdiction to consider merit at all.  Kos J ruled; “the Commissioner’s statutory jurisdiction is a limited one. The Commissioner does not make “merit determinations on judicial misconduct”, as the plaintiff was wont to suggest.  Rather, as Ms Theron put it, he operates as a clearing house for complaints.”

[2014] NZHC 596 was a ruling where Justice Kos ordered the applicant in a judicial review of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner to pay $20,000 security for the Commissioner’s opposition of the judicial review before the judge would allow a hearing.  Kos added a provision in the judgment that the Commissioner could seek further security at any time he deemed $20,000 was not enough security for his defence adding a barrier and an air of unpredictability which is unusual even by New Zealand standards.

Neutering the Judicial Conduct Commissioner’s statutory oversight role and preventing judicial review of the JCC’s rulings which dismiss complaints against judges conveniently serves Justice Kos who himself has been the subject of complaints to the JCC by at least two lawyers for altering his judicial directions post hearing without notice.

Coincidentally, Kos was Crown counsel who argued before the Supreme Court in Saxmere v Wool Board (2009-2010) that Justice Bill Wilson (before Wilson was appointed to the Supreme Court) did not have a disqualifying conflict due to his $200,000 personal debt to the Wool Board’s counsel when those parties appeared before Wilson at the Court of Appeal.  Wilson was eventually forced to resign.

In a March 2016 Justice Kos gave a speech to the Arbitrators & Mediators Institute of NZ in which the depth of his connections to powerful interests led him to comment he spent 30 years as “the legal equivalent of Victor Borge’s doctor who specialised in diseases of the rich.”  He now claimed NZ court inequality between the haves and have-nots warranted new initiatives to prevent potential ruin.  Noting “revelation of truth” is “not part of an adversarial court system” and legal aid funding is dropping like a rock, Kos J had the audience scratching their heads when he advocated his solution to people being financially shut out of the courts was for the wealthy who currently control the NZ Courts provide “pleadings aid” and “limited representation” to the have-nots without any legal obligation to their “client”.

Most of his friends agree Justice Kos cannot maintain his lavish personal lifestyle on his $453,000 judicial salary.  The child of poor Hungarian refugees who says Hungarian was his first language has developed an acute taste for everything expensive.  The Bentley-driving Kos J has said Attorney-General Finlayson jokingly asked him to “take a vow of poverty” to become a judge.

On the bench, Kos J has taken a dominant position in protecting Crown and wealthy interests unless high-priced counsel is engaged by the opposition – in which case “justice considerations” become a little more difficult for Justice Kos.

Background / Education: Before joining the independent Bar in 2005, Stephen Kos was a senior litigation partner at Russell McVeagh and was Chairman of Partners of that firm from 2003-2005.Immediately prior to his bench appointment, Justice Kos was a partner of litigation firm Stout Street Chambers in Wellington and and associate member of Shortland Chambers in Auckland.

Stephen Kos was also Pro-Chancellor of Massey University, an Honorary Lecturer in Law at Victoria University and Chairman of the New Zealand Markets Disciplinary Tribunal (the stock exchange disciplinary tribunal).Justice Kos is a graduate of Victoria University where he was awarded the Chapman Tripp Prize and Cambridge University.

Degrees: LLB Victoria University, 1981
LLM Cambridge, 1985
Admitted to the Bar: 1982
Company Involvements:
WELLINGTON WATERFRONT LIMITED (345518) – Ceased Director Ceased DirectorResigned 31 Dec 2008 , 97 Seaview Road, Paremata, Wellington
MAGNIFICENT MACHINES LIMITED (1852819) – Ceased Director Ceased DirectorResigned 02 Feb 2010   97 Seaview Road, Paremata, Wellington, 5024, New Zealand
HOBSON ESTATES LIMITED (1296522)(Struck off) – Director DirectorAppointed 02 May 2003 97 Seaview Road, Paremata 6006, 5024, New Zealand
STOUT STREET ESTATES LIMITED (1823062) – Director DirectorAppointed 09 Jun 2006 21 Selwyn Terrace, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand
STOUT STREET CHAMBERS LIMITED (1823063) – Director DirectorAppointed 09 Jun 2006, 21 Selwyn Tce, Thorndon, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand
DIXON STREET PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LIMITED (1351621)(Struck off) – Director DirectorAppointed 25 Jul 2003, 97 Seaview Road, Paremata, Wellington, 5024, New Zealand
HOBSON ESTATES LIMITED (1296522)(Struck off) – Shareholder Shareholder100% (Individually Held) 97 Seaview Road, Paremata 6006, New Zealand
STOUT STREET CHAMBERS LIMITED (1823063) – Shareholder Shareholder33% (Individually Held), 97 Seaview Road, Paramata, Wellington


SKELLIG LIMITED (2136459) – Shareholder, Shareholder100% (Individually Held) 21 Selwyn Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand
SKELLIG LIMITED (2136459) – Director DirectorAppointed 04 Jun 2008 21 Selwyn Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand
SKELLIG HOLDINGS LIMITED (1116802)(Struck off) – Shareholder Shareholder100% (Individually Held) 97 Seaview Road, Paremata 6006
SKELLIG HOLDINGS LIMITED (1116802)(Struck off) – Director DirectorAppointed 19 Feb 2001 97 Seaview Road, Paremata 6006, 5024, New Zealand
STOUT STREET ESTATES LIMITED (1823062) – Shareholder Shareholder33% (Individually Held) 97 Seaview Road Paremata, Wellington, New Zealand
MAGNIFICENT MACHINES LIMITED (1852819) – Shareholder Shareholder33% (Individually Held) 97 Seaview Road, Paremata, Wellington, New Zealand

Personal Data

Born: 1953
New Zealand
Sex: Male
Married: 19 Children:  yes
Interesting Relationships and Coincidences:  Kos J’s daughter Rosie Kos is a recent University of Canterbury law school graduate who received a paid trip to London as part of her “education” and a cushy Crown Law job right out of Law School.  Google “Rosie Kos” for more of how a youngster whose graduation certificate is still wet can become a ‘visionary lawyer’ in New Zealand jurisprudence.  Some kids are precocious but not this one.
Miscellaneous: Lives in Wellington

Stephen Kos | Facultyof Law | Victoria University of Welliington
29 Sep 2006 … You are here: Home > Staff > J Stephen Kos. J Stephen Kós QC. Position. Honorary Lecturer. Qualifications. LLB(Hons), LLM Camb, QC … – Cached – Similar
Barbara J Hunt – – Firm Profile
Barbara J Hunt. Barrister. Location Waterfront Chambers, Level 5 Sybase House 101 Lambton Quay WELLINGTON, Mail Address PO Box 5494. Wellington ……/c82b56cf9db140d9cc25721800792449?… – Cached – Similar
Stephen Kos QC explains the legal side of – NZPA Images
Stephen Kos QC explains the legal side of Baarristers work at NZ First leader Winston Peters listens on at the Privileges Committee, Parliament, Wellington, … – Cached – Similar
Appointment of Senior Counsel | Scoop News
3 Oct 2008 … Attorney-General Hon Dr Michael Cullen today announced the appointment of the first round of Senior Counsel. ? Parliament – Cached – Similar
NZ Bar Association Member Directory : New Zealand Bar Association
Mr, Stephen · Mills, QC, LLB (Hons), AUCKLAND, 09 309 1769, Shortland Chambers, QC. Mr, Jim · Milne, BA, HAMILTON, 07 838 0770, B 7+ …… – Cached – Similar
s ( 1
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
First appointment round for Senior Counsel | Scoop News
1 Aug 2008 … The Solicitor-General, David Collins QC, chairs the Panel with two members from the New Zealand Law Society and two members from the New … ? Parliament – Cached
Welcome to Facebook – Log In, Sign Up or Learn More
Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, … – Cached – Similar
The riddle of the sacked lawyer |
30 Oct 2008 … Alan Galbraith, QC, represented the Wool Board. * The growers won round one but lost an appeal argued by Mr Galbraith and heard by the Court … – Similar
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
J S Kós QC, J V Ormsby and J W A Johnson for Appellants. M R Camp QC for Second Respondent. R A Osborne for Third Respondent. Judgment: 7 August 2008 ……/fileDecision – Similar