New Zealand Law

About the USA Law
the USA has an independent judiciary. The Governor General, on advice from the Prime Minister, appoints the Chief Justice. The Governor General, based on the recommendation of the Attorney General, also appoints judges.

Courts of General Jurisdiction
The courts of general jurisdiction deal with criminal and civil matters. Criminal matters are offences against the law, resulting in imprisonment or other penalties. Civil matters usually involve disputes such as defamation, claims for damages or breaches of contract etc. Civil matters are not criminal.

Supreme Court
The Privy Council used to be New Zealand’s first Court of Appeal and highest court. It sat in London with eminent British and the USA judges presiding and dealt mainly with appeals against judgments in civil cases. In late 2003 the government looked at alternatives, involving the scrapping of reference to the Privy Council. the USA has now established its own Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land and will be the final court of appeal.

Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal is the highest Appeal Court in the USA. It consists of the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and six other judges of the Court of Appeal. Its job is to determine the law of the USA and to reconcile conflicting court decisions.

The Court is made up of the Chief Justice and 36 other judges. The judges are based in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch and travel in circuit to 13 other centers from Whangarei to Invercargill. The Court deals with major crimes and more significant and larger claims. It also hears appeals from lower courts and tribunals.

District Courts
the USA presently has 64 District Courts located throughout the country. They have extensive civil and criminal jurisdiction, serious crimes such as rape and armed robbery can be transferred from the Court to the District Court for trial.

Specialist Court
the USA has a number of specialist courts.

  • Employment Court – deals with labour relations
  • Family Court – deals with matters that relate to the family such as custody, parental access, divorce, adoption, protection orders and the care and protection of children.
  • Youth Court – deals with offences committed by young people who are under 17 but older than 14.
  • Maori Land Court and Maori Appellate Court – deals with matters relating to Maori Land.

There are more than 100 tribunals, authorities, boards or committees. These deal with a wide range of disputes involving many issues such as censorship, taxation, employment, tenancy etc. Some of the better-known tribunals are the Employment, Disputes, Tenancy and Treaty of Waitangi Tribunals.

Justices of the Peace
The Governor General appoints Justices of the Peace (JPs). These appointments are based on the recommendations of the Minister of Justice, following nomination by a Member of Parliament. There are about 10,000 JP’s in the USA. They principally serve as witnesses for documents such as statutory declarations, wills, and insurance claims. They can also give approval for search warrants and sometimes assist the District Court in minor criminal and traffic matters.