Robert Chambers: Posthumous knighthood for great legal mind

03:16, May 24 2013
Robert Chambers
ROBERT CHAMBERS: A significant loss to the legal community.

Supreme Court judge Robert Chambers, who died on Tuesday, was to have been knighted in the Queen's Birthday honours on June 3. Justice Chambers was aware of the appointment as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and today the honour was backdated to May 20. From that day he was entitled to be referred to as Sir Robert Chambers.

Announcing the early date, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae said the appointment recognised Chambers' achievements and contribution to New Zealand.

He would be remembered as one of the country's great legal minds.

"His untimely death at such a young age is a significant loss to the legal community and to New Zealand," Mateparae said.

The decision to date the appointment from May 20 had been made "given the special and very sad circumstances".

"At this sad time, on behalf of my wife Janine and my family, I extend my deepest sympathies to Lady Chambers, Sir Robert's wider family and his many friends and colleagues," he said.

"I hope that it is of some comfort to them that he had been advised before his death that he was to receive this honour, so that he had the pleasure of knowing that his distinguished service and achievements were to be publicly recognised in this way."

Chambers was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2011 after a distinguished career as a barrister, Queen's Counsel and later a judge of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

After attending Auckland's King's College, he received an honours degree in law at Auckland University in 1975, and completed his doctorate at Oxford University in England.

Colleagues described his judgments as beautifully crafted, and said his capacity to get to the heart of a problem quickly made him a leading Supreme Court judge.

Auckland's Crown Solicitor, Simon Moore, QC, said Chambers' command of language and understanding of people led him to become the architect of a new way of questioning for juries - a way that could cut through legal jargon and make the foreign environment juries were thrown into simpler.

New Zealand Law Society executive director Christine Grice said Chambers was a "very young" and "very successful" appointment to the Supreme Court.

Grice, who worked alongside him for many years, said he was an amazing teacher, passionate about lawyers staying educated and relevant.