May 02, 2019
Joe Williams first Māori Supreme Court judge
A former bandmate says he’s proud and overjoyed Justice Joe Williams has been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Te Taura Whiri chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui met Justice Williams as a student at Victoria University of Wellington, and together they were part of the ground-breaking band Aotearoa.
He says he had charisma and an X factor, whether he was leading fellow students on the marae or on the bandstand or arguing the case for Māori in wider forums.
"Māori people have got somebody who has got our back. He was always there for us as students and of course I learned from his composure, learned from his ability to stand back and think about what needed to be done," Mr Apanui says.
Justice Williams, from Ngāti Pukenga and Te Arawa, graduated with an LLB from Victoria University in 1986 and joined the faculty as a junior lecturer.
After completing a Masters degree in Canada he joined Auckland firm Kensington Swan in 1988, establishing the first unit specialising in Māori issues in a major New Zealand law firm and developing a large environmental practice.
He was appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court in 1999, a Judge of the High Court in 2008 and a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 2018.
The vacancy on the Supreme Court has come up because Justice Sir William Young was named to chair the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 attack on the Christchurch mosques.
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