Kawerau alumni sworn in as High Court judge
17 March 2015
SWORN IN: High Court judge Anne Hinton during her swearing in ceremony in January. Photo supplied
ANNE Hinton, who credits her Kawerau upbringing for keeping her grounded during a successful career as a lawyer, has been made a High Court judge.
Justice Hinton was sworn in as a High Court judge on January 30, but her journey to the courtroom began at a school around the corner from her family’s Fenton Street home.
The oldest of five girls, Justice Hinton was born in Whakatane to Ken and Jackie Gatfield.
Their Fenton Street house was one of the first built in Kawerau after her father and business partners Sam Walsh and Jim Morris won a tender to build the town’s houses.
Some of her earliest memories include walking to Central School (sometimes barefoot), playing marbles with friends in empty gutters and climbing sulphur hill, opposite the swimming pools.
“We all used to go down and jump off the roots of a tree into a popular area of the river. I remember that because I was actually quite scared as I was never a particularly good swimmer.”
As a five-year-old she was elevated to a class with seven and eight-year-olds, after being taught to read and write early by her school teacher mother.
Her spare time was filled with ballet, Brownies, hockey, piano and tennis.
She began considering a career in law during her last two years of high school.
“I don’t remember thinking of it myself; people must have just said to me that’s what they thought I should do, and I thought it sounded good,” she said.
“One of my grandfathers was a lawyer. He was the only lawyer in the family, so I suppose I had that example because he was a real character.”
“Before I went Dad asked his lawyer in Whakatane what he thought. He said under no circumstances should I study law. Law was hard enough for a man and it would be quite impossible for a woman.”
But both her parents were very supportive of her study and her father only revealed the grim advice years later, she said.
At 16 she finished high school and headed for Auckland University.
“I remember enrolment day because I found it quite daunting … I think it took me an entire day when it probably should have taken about an hour.”
At 21 she married fellow law student Peter Hinton. The pair left for America after he was offered a masters spot at Harvard Law School.
The following year they moved to Washington DC to work as lawyers.
“[Peter] would have quite happily stayed there but I found myself going to the letter box every day looking for mail,” she said.
“People were fantastic toward us in the States, they couldn’t have been more welcoming … but I’m just one of those people who likes to live where I’m from, so two years was enough for me.”
When they returned to New Zealand Justice Hinton became a partner at the firm Hesketh Henry and her husband partnered at Simpson Grierson. She subsequently joined Simpson Grierson as a partner.
Justice Hinton worked in general litigation, then relationship property and trust law.
In 1997 she became a barrister and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2002, a title awarded to lawyers considered national leaders at the bar.
Justice Hinton remained an enthusiastic supporter of women in law and a member of the Auckland Women Lawyers Association.
“I was one of the founding members of that group and it’s still going strong. We had a social event recently at which I was asked to speak. We all pitch in and are as supportive of one another as possible.”
“There are still differences, which are not so good for women in law, the percentages of partners in firms, judges, QCs, and women appointed to boards.”
Justice Hinton said after five weeks as a judge she was enjoying her new role.
“You’re still dealing with a range of cases and a number of them at any one time, but it might be six or 10 rather than 60 or 100.”
“I think the difference that’s really struck me so far is that as a court lawyer you’re doing a lot of work leading up to your appearance in court. You’ve got to be so thoroughly prepared,” she said. “But as a judge most of your work is during the hearing and after it.”
Judges visited different courts as part of a “circuit” and she recently presided over a hearing in New Plymouth.
“It’s part of keeping your feet on the ground and keeping in touch with what’s happening in the smaller centres – rather than just Auckland,” she said.
Both Justice Hinton’s parents lived on in Kawerau until they died. Her aunt and uncle are still residents.
“I think coming from Kawerau and being one of five has always given me a more ‘feet on the ground’ type approach.”
Outside of work she has two adult children.
Andrew, 29, studied science at university then shifted to investment banking, and Campbell, 27, followed his parents into law.
Source: Whakatane Beacon