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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal consists of the Chief Justice ex officio, and a President and two Judges of the Court of Appeal. An additional Judge or Judges of the Supreme Court may be nominated by the Chief Justice to sit on the Court of Appeal. Judges of the Court of Appeal are also Judges of the Supreme Court. As its name suggests, the Court has an appellate jurisdiction only. It hears civil and criminal appeals from the Supreme Court. Certain civil proceedings in inferior Courts may, on an order from the Supreme Court, be removed into the Court of Appeal for argument.

The first New Zealand Court of Appeal was established in 1846 and is something of a legal curiosity. With only two Judges in the colony, a Court of the ordinary sort was impossible. Following South Australian precedent, Sir George Grey set up an appellate Court comprising the Governor and the members of the Executive Council other than the Attorney-General. The confidence of litigants in this wholly lay Court cannot have been great. A more orthodox Court of Appeal was constituted in 1862, the members of which were drawn from the Supreme Court Judges, who thereafter had what one of them called “the melancholy pleasure of reversing one another's decisions”. This system continued until 1957, when the present Court was constituted.

All decisions of the Court of Appeal are final unless leave is granted to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sitting in London. Leave may be granted either by the Court or by the Judicial Committee itself in civil cases, but only by the Judicial Committee in criminal cases, and then only in very exceptional cases. The Judicial Committee and the House of Lords sitting as the highest Appeal Court for England generally have the same membership. Eminent Judges of Commonwealth countries are, however, appointed to the Judicial Committee from time to time. In retaining the Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal New Zealand follows Australia, but differs from Canada, India, and certain other Commonwealth countries. While most New Zealand lawyers clearly desire the retention of this right of appeal, there have been a few voices of dissent. It is indeed difficult to reconcile with either the status or needs of New Zealand the power of an overseas tribunal, however eminent, to determine our law.

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