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District Court Judges Appointed To Ease Post Lockdown Caseload

Five additional District Court Judges have been appointed to help deal with the impact of the COVID 19 lock down period on the Court system.

The District Court is under significant caseload pressure and these additional appointments will increase capacity in the key locations of Auckland, Manukau, Whangarei and Christchurch.

The appointments, announced by Attorney-General David Parker today, are the first of a number of new District Court Judge appointments. A further 10 will begin work early in the New Year replacing Judges who have reached retirement age. In total 15 new Judges will take up appointment between February and April 2021.

Those taking up appointment in February are:

Joanne Hambleton, barrister of Dunedin, has been appointed as a District Court Judge with Family Court Jurisdiction to be based in Christchurch.

Ms Hambleton’s first role was as a Solicitor and Associate Solicitor with Preston Russell in Invercargill from 1999 to 2004 before a short period of time as an Associate Solicitor at Macalisters, Invercargill. Between 2005 and 2006 she worked briefly as an Associate Solicitor at Wilkinson Rogers and from 2006 to 2015 at Galloway Cook Allan in Dunedin. In 2016 she became an Associate at O’Neill Deveraux, Dunedin before commencing practice as a barrister in early 2020.

She will be sworn in on 15 February 2021.

Stephen Bonnar QC barrister of Auckland has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Auckland.

Mr Bonnar commenced his law career as a Crown Prosecutor with Meredith Connell where he worked from 1987 until 1992. Following that he spent time in the United Kingdom from 1992 to 1995 working as a Senior Crown Prosecutor in London, followed by a period in the Cayman Islands from 1995 to 1997 where he was working in the Attorney-General’s chambers as Crown Counsel.

He returned to New Zealand in 1997, re-joining Meredith Connell as a Senior Crown Prosecutor/Partner until 2002 when he established practice as a Barrister in Freyberg Chambers and was appointed Queens Counsel in 2014.

Judge Bonnar will be sworn in on 17 February 2021.

Belinda Sellars QC barrister of Auckland has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Auckland.

Ms Sellars was admitted in 1994 and identifies as NZ Maori/NZ European/Vietnamese with Iwi affiliations to Ngai Te Rangi and Ngai Tukuirangi.

Her first legal role was in France as a law clerk in Paris for a couple of months in 1993. Her initial legal role in New Zealand was as a junior barrister, with Michael Harte before joining Russell McVeagh in 1996. She was there until 2002 as a senior solicitor before joining the Public Defence Service in 2004 as a lawyer/senior lawyer.

In 2009 Ms Sellars established herself as a barrister and has been practising in that capacity since.

Judge Sellars will be sworn in on 17 February 2021.

Karen Grau, lawyer of Paekakariki has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Manukau.

Ms Grau’s initial legal experience was as a Judge’s Clerk (Hon Justice Glazebrook) at the Court of Appeal from 2003 to 2004. Following that Ms Grau worked as Legal Counsel in the Commerce Commission between 2005 and 2006 before commencing practice as a Barrister in Stout Street Chambers, Wellington, assisting (then) Stephen Kos QC.

Between 2007 and 2015 she was a Crown Prosecutor at Luke Cunningham and Clere, Wellington and has most recently been working in the Crown Law Office as Crown Counsel in the Criminal Group.

Judge Grau will be sworn in on 23 February 2021.

Philip Rzepecky, barrister of Auckland has been appointed as a District Court Judge with jury jurisdiction to be based in Whangarei.

Mr Rzepecky started as a law clerk with Gibson Sheet in Lower Hutt before a move to Napier as a staff solicitor with Langley Twigg and then for Russell Fairbrother. Following a period in London in 1988/89 as in-house counsel with a maritime underwriting company he returned to NZ in 1990, taking up a role as staff solicitor with Macalister Mazengarb in Wellington.

In 1991 he moved to Auckland joining McElroy Milne and Mr Rzepecky was a partner in that firm until becoming a barrister in 2004. In his practice as a barrister he has specialised in commercial litigation and insurance work.

Judge Rzepecky will be sworn in on 24 February 2021.

The names of appointees whose warrants take effect in March and April will be announced closer to those dates.

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