Subsections

Role & Structure

The District Court of New Zealand

In New Zealand we enjoy a first rate court system which operates in a principled and disciplined way. While not institutionally independent in the sense that it relies on the Ministry of Justice for logistical support, the judiciary’s independence in decision making and the ethos that the Judges will run their own affairs untrammelled by the whims of the Government of the day, are well ingrained and untouchable.

But, notwithstanding their inheritance of the long history of justice since the Magna Carta, ignorance of what the courts actually do in New Zealand is widespread.

To correct that knowledge gap this little booklet sets out to give information and insight into New Zealand’s largest volume jurisdictions – the District Courts. And so here may be found descriptions of the work done, a smattering of workload statistics, some photographs, some light description of courthouses, ancient and modern, and schedules of who is who and where and how courthouses may be contacted.

Courts are often criticised for keeping things secret. In reality justice thrives on openness. Sometimes it must be protected from exploitation which will damage the process, but Judges know that the light shone by public scrutiny is Justicia’s shield.

I hope that this little booklet will make a small contribution to that cause.


Russell Johnson
Former Chief District Court Judge

The District Courts, New Zealand (2008) (PDF, 1.9MB)

The Judiciary

There are 145 District Court Judges and the Chief District Court Judge. District Court Judges include among their numbers the Chief Coroner, 7 Environment Court Judges, two judges seconded full-time to other jurisdictions. Judges are permanently based in the main centres, but travel to other courts on circuit. While each District Court Judge can preside over minor criminal matters, they each specialise in particular aspects of the District Courts jurisdiction, either jury trials, family or youth.

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