Top judge gets new title to mark law work

16:00, Dec 30 2012

For Mark O'Regan, a knighthood is something to look forward to in retirement. For now, he'll make do with the titles "your honour" and "Justice".

The Court of Appeal president has been made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Justice O'Regan, 59, said it was both a "great honour" and a "shock" to receive a letter from the governor-general, asking him if he would accept a knighthood.

He was moved by the "recognition from the community", rather than by the title itself.

"In the judiciary, you already have the titles of ‘your honour' and ‘Justice', and that doesn't change while you're still in office, so the ‘Sir' is in the background a bit until you retire."

He agreed that "Sir Mark" was something to look forward to - "but the honour is the important thing. The title is secondary".

Justice O'Regan followed his father and two older brothers into law, graduating from Victoria University in 1977. As a practitioner, he specialised in company and securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and competition law.

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He was a partner at the Wellington law firm Chapman Tripp for 16 years from 1984, during which time he was involved in major reforms of law relating to secured financing that have since been emulated in Australia.

From 1994, he also served as a legal adviser to the Government on the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.

He was appointed a High Court judge in 2001, and joined the Court of Appeal in 2004, taking on the role of president in 2010.

He said the honour was as much recognition of the importance of the Court of Appeal as his own career. "I think it's a good thing for the court that it's been recognised in this way."

The Dominion Post