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Appointment new Chief Justice

Prime Minister's media release 17 December

Justice Helen Winkelmann's statement 17 December

The Honourable Justice Winkelmann

Justice Helen Winkelmann was born in 1962, the youngest of four children born to Kathleen and Douglas Winkelmann. Her mother (nee Papich) came from a large Croatian family. Justice Winkelmann was brought up in Blockhouse Bay, Auckland, and attended secondary school at Lynfield College, Mt Roskill. She studied history and law at Auckland University, focusing on commercial law, and graduating with a BA/LLB. She was awarded the Auckland District Law Society Centenary Prize for Best Undergraduate Degree. She was admitted to the bar in 1985.

Justice Winkelmann began work as a law clerk with Auckland firm Nicholson Gribbin (later Phillips Fox, now DLA Piper).  In 1988, at age 25, Justice Winkelmann became the first female partner and one of the youngest partners ever in the firm’s then 117-year history. She remained at that firm until May 2001 when she began practice as a barrister sole specialising in insolvency, commercial litigation and medical disciplinary litigation.

Justice Winkelmann was appointed a High Court Judge in July 2004 by which time the youngest of her four children, twins, were aged five. She was appointed as Chief High Court Judge with effect from 1 February 2010. She remained in that position until her appointment to the Court of Appeal in 2015.

As Chief High Court Judge Justice Winkelmann introduced reforms aimed at improving accessibility to the High Court’s processes in its civil jurisdiction, improving the timeliness with which the Court dealt with both civil and criminal matters, and improving public understanding of the work of the Courts. 

These initiatives included the reintroduction of the publication of annual reports for the High Court, which included the Court reporting against judgment timeliness standards, and the introduction of the Higher Courts (now Senior Courts) Twitter account to improve communications with the public. 

She has spoken regularly on issues concerning the just and efficient operation of the Courts, and access to justice. This was the topic of her 2011 Ethel Benjamin address, ‘Access to justice, who needs lawyers?’ (2014) 13 Otago LR 229.

In 2011, following the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes Justice Winkelmann worked with Justice Miller to set up the Earthquake List in Christchurch.  The objective of that List was to enable proceedings flowing out of the Christchurch earthquake to be dealt with promptly and in a time frame that met the needs of the community.  (For a discussion of the High Court response to the earthquake see Nina Khouri “Civil Justice Response to Natural Disaster:  New Zealand’s Christchurch High Court Earthquake List”, Civil Justice Quarterly 36(3)).

Justice Winkelmann also worked with other Heads of Bench to establish Court procedures, including opening and closing of the Court day, so that the Court’s processes better reflect the two founding cultures of this nation, Māori and Pakeha.

Justice Winkelmann was jointly awarded the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration Award for Excellence in 2013, for her work in judicial administration flowing out of the Christchurch earthquake.

Justice Winkelmann joined the Court of Appeal Bench with effect from 1 June 2015.  She is the Chief Justice’s representative on the Council of Law Reporting.  She is also the Chair of the Institute of Judicial Studies, the body responsible for providing continued education to judges.  As Chair of the Institute, she oversees a curriculum which supports judges in developing core judicial skills and which also incorporates courses providing judges with the context necessary to enable them to judge in a diverse society.


Recent speech by Justice Winkelmann  - Sir Bruce Slane Memorial Lecture, November 2018.  Marking the Privacy Act’s 25 years.

download bio Hon Justice Winkelmann (pdf, 251 KB)