Death of Justice Robert Chambers

Justice Robert Chambers

Tributes flow following the sudden death in his sleep on Tuesday of Supreme Court Justice Robert Stanley Chambers (59).

Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae confirmed today that Justice Chambers was to be made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the judiciary, to be announced on June 3.

Extending his sympathies to Lady Chambers, Sir Robert's wider family, friends and colleagues, Sir Jerry said the appointment took effect from May 20 and he was entitled to be referred to as Sir Robert Chambers, KNZM, QC.

A deeply saddened Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias confirmed Justice Chamber's death to NBR ONLINE on Wednesday afternoon. 

Justice Chambers was appointed to the Supreme Court in December 2011, after seven years on the Court of Appeal and five years on the High Court.

Justice Chambers, the husband of leading divorce Queen’s counsel Deborah Chambers (nee Hollings), began practice as a barrister in 1981 and was appointed Queen’s counsel in 1992.

He graduated LLB (Hons) from Auckland University in 1975 and gained a doctorate from Oxford University in 1978.

A celebration of Justice Chambers' life will be held at the Auckland Town Hall at 2 pm on Monday, May 27.

For more on Justice Chambers and what happens in the fallout from the Supreme Court vacancy created by his untimely death, see Judge Jock on NBR ONLINE this Friday.



Justice Minister Judith Collins

“I am extremely sad to learn of the sudden death of Justice Robert Chambers.

“He was renowned across the profession as one of New Zealand’s greatest legal brains. His sudden death at such a young age is a significant loss to the legal community.

“I instructed Justice Chambers on many occasions when he was a barrister. I served with him on the Auckland District Law Society Council for a number of years and when he became president, I was vice-president.

"I will always remember Justice Chambers for his humanity, terrific wit and way with words. 

“My thoughts are with his wife Deborah, his family and friends, at this very sad time.”

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias

"Robert Chambers was a dear friend and colleague, and a great judge who still had much to contribute.

"This is an enormous loss to the judiciary, and a devastating blow to his family, especially his wife Deb.

"Justice Chambers had had a career in the law of great distinction before he came to the bench, where he showed himself a jurist of great ability, diligence, and humanity."

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson

“Justice Chambers had an outstanding career as a servant of the law, ultimately appointed to the nation’s highest court. I was devastated to learn of his untimely death.

“I served with him for many years on the Rules Committee of the High Court, and he had recently been appointed to the Council for Continuing Legal Education as the Chief Justice’s representative.

"He made a great contribution, and had only begun what was expected to be a long tenure on the Supreme Court.

“He was involved in so many other areas outside the judiciary, and lived life to the full. It is not often one comes across the likes of Justice Chambers in the profession.

“My sincerest condolences go out to his wife Deborah, his family and friends.”

New Zealand Law Society

The legal profession will be greatly saddened at the news of the sudden death of Justice Robert Chambers, society president Chris Moore says.

“Justice Chambers was an outstanding judge. His appointment to the Supreme Court last year was a natural progression in a career of high achievement.

“Right from his graduation from Auckland University with LLB (Hons) in 1975 it was clear that he was going to make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s justice system.

"As a barrister and Queen’s Counsel he was also active in advocating for and representing the interests of the legal profession.”

Mr Moore says Justice Chambers’ career has been cut tragically short.

“When he was appointed to the Supreme Court it was a fitting recognition of the reputation and standing he had acquired as a Judge of the Court of Appeal and, earlier, the High Court.

“He had a magnificent and quick sense of humour which was invariably accompanied by an engaging and infectious laugh.

“The Law Society extends its deepest sympathy to his wife Deborah and his family.”

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Very sad, he had many good years on the Supreme Court ahead of him. A real loss for the legal and judicial communities.

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Rest in Peace, I only had the privilege to argue one case before him (and saw another one argued on behalf of my clients by another barrister) and it was immediately obvious that the man was extremely intelligent. He also was diligent and most respectful to the decorum as well. It was no surprise he made it to the Supreme Court at a relatively young age. My condolences to his family.

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I was a registry officer at the Court of Appeal and had a lot to do with Chambers J. Always very down to earth, kind, helpful and well respected by everybody within the Court. RIP Judge.

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My thoughts are with D & C and C & Z. You will all continue to do him proud and carry on his legacy.

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In addition into what has been said:

A regular friendly face at the criminal seminars practitioner attended. Most recently at the Criminal Law Symposium in Wellington - where at breaks we even managed to observe the impact of legal aid shenanigans on the realities of Sth Auckland.

He was someone who sat deservedly at the top of our legal system, but seemed to be more attuned than many to what transpired much closer to the ground - he was in touch, and therefore well qualified, for his role. Not afraid to move freely and regularly outside his ranks and the more common. A great example in that regard both for legal professionals and us all.

To be sorely missed.

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