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Retired judge shares expertise with Cook Islands Justices of the Peace

Monday 18 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Court, Local, National


Retired judge shares expertise with Cook Islands Justices of the Peace
Retired judge John Adams from Aotearoa New Zealand, left, facilitates this Justices of the Peace (JPs) decision-making and judgment writing programme last week. At right is senior Cook Islands JP Tangianau Taoro. SUPPLIED/24031601

Retired judge John Adams from Aotearoa New Zealand is facilitating this week’s orientation workshop for three Justices of the Peace (JPs) from the Pa Enua (one from Aitutaki and two from Atiu).

Adams is here to support Cook Islands JPs with their practice and help them develop their skills.

The programme for JPs, which focused on decision-making and judgment writing, wrapped up on Friday at The Edgewater Resort.

Last week’s workshop for more experienced judges emphasised “writing good decisions that clearly give reasons for the orders you make,” Adams said.

“I’m encouraging them to try different things and to develop their skills.

“The Justices who are attending this course are inspirational to work with because they are passionate about their role and want to do the best they can.

“Many of the justices will not have sat before and it’s a little scary. I felt it scary when I started. I care for these people because I know what it’s like … these are good people.”

Adams has been involved in law for over 50 years and continues to hold a judicial role as the deputy chair of the lawyers’ Disciplinary Tribunal in New Zealand.

He began his judicial career in 1995 when he was appointed a District Court Judge (with Family Court warrant), retiring in 2022.

Sharing his perspective on what makes a good judge, Adams says: “It’s not so much adherence to the law although that’s important. I think it’s having a good feel about the fairness for the people who are coming in the court. A judge who is compassionate but nonetheless firm when they need to be.”

“The job of a judge is to deliver law in individual cases to the people and that involves having some knowledge of the law, also a good feel for people and caring about them.”

Adams added, “some people say justice is love in action”.

“I quite like that – it’s an expression of care, and also society needs to have some tidiness to it, but not too much.”

This is Adams’ fourth visit to the Cook Islands, and his second work-related trip. He ran a three-day workshop in 2017.

Adams graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Auckland University in 1970 and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor the same year.

He currently teaches programmes for the New Zealand Law Society and the Institute of Judicial Studies.

In addition to his legal background, Adams holds degrees in English from Auckland University, including a Master of Creative Writing (2009) and a PhD (2021). He is a published poet and writer, a teacher, and a mediator/arbitrator.