Robin Cooke, Baron Cooke of Thorndon


Robin Cooke, Baron Cooke of Thorndon

Robin Brunskill Cooke, Baron Cooke of Thorndon, ONZ, KBE, PC, QC (9 May 1926 - 30 August 2006) was a New Zealand judge and later a member of the British House of Lords. Prior to reaching the age of 75 he was a Lord of Appeal and a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He is widely considered New Zealand's greatest jurist, and is the only New Zealand judge to have sat in the House of Lords.

Early life and education

The son of a Supreme Court Judge, Mr. Justice P.B. (Philip) Cooke and his wife Valmai, Lord Cooke was born in Wellington, and attended Wanganui Collegiate School. He graduated with a Master of Laws from Victoria University College, and subsequently studied at Clare College, Cambridge as a Research Fellow. While on a travelling scholarship, Lord Cooke was awarded a Master of Arts degree in 1954 from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and subsequently a Ph.D in 1955.

In 1952 he married Annette Miller and they had three sons.

Legal career

Cooke was admitted to the New Zealand bar in 1950, and was also admitted to the English bar as a barrister of Inner Temple in 1954. He practised law in New Zealand as a barrister for almost twenty years, and was appointed as a Queen's Counsel in 1964. In 1972 he was appointed as a Judge of the (former) New Zealand Supreme Court (now High Court). He held this position until 1976 when he was elevated to the New Zealand Court of Appeal (at that time the highest local court in that country). In 1986, he was appointed as President of that Court - a position he was to hold for the next 10 years. On his retirement from the Court of Appeal in 1996 he was granted a British life peerage as Baron Cooke of Thorndon, of Wellington in New Zealand and of Cambridge in the County of Cambridgeshire, becoming a member of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords where he sat as a Lord of Appeal (Law Lord) until his retirement in 2001. He also sat (from time to time) as President in the Courts of Appeal of Samoa, the Cook Islands and Kiribati; as well as being a Non-Permanent Judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal and a Judge of the Fijian Supreme Court. He was the first (and probably the last) Commonwealth judge to sit in the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords on United Kingdom appeals and adjudicated on nearly a hundred cases in the House of Lords and the Privy Council.

Legal philosophy and influence on the law

Cooke is regarded as one of the most influential jurists in New Zealand in the latter quarter of the 20th century. He took what could be considered a natural law approach to some areas, often seeking to assert a right for the courts to intervene where none was prescribed in legislation. In his extra-judicial writings, he also speculated that, in the most exceptional circumstances, an Act of Parliament that egregiously violated fundamental rights might be void at common law. This view contradicted the dominant parliamentary supremacy theories of A. V. Dicey, which had guided common law courts since the late 19th century. However, Cooke's view recalled a similar opinion expressed by the famous 17th century English jurist, Sir Edward Coke.

Cooke, not uncontroversially, asserted and developed his views in a number of judgments issued throughout his time on the bench. He is credited with having contributed considerably to the development of administrative law in New Zealand and internationally, and was also recognised for his contribution to the law relating to the Treaty of Waitangi.

In 1985, he delivered the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of "Finnigan" v "New Zealand Rugby Football Union" [ [1985] 2 NZLR 159.] , allowing the appeal of lawyers seeking an injunction against the NZRFU's proposed tour of South Africa. The proposed tour followed the controversial 1981 Springbok Tour, and was cancelled after the High Court re-heard the case in light of the Court of Appeal's judgment.

In 1987, he delivered the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of "New Zealand Maori Council" v "Attorney-General", which sought to clarify what Parliament meant by section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act 1986. The act stated "Nothing in this act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi", but what those principles might be was left to the courts to decide. The principles elicited by President Cooke set legal standards for the first time on the relationship between the Crown and Maori.

Lord Cooke, during his tenure as a judge in New Zealand was known for his self fulfilling obiter dicta.Fact|date=February 2007 These were made on a number of subjects including parliamentary sovereignty ("Taylor v New Zealand Poultry Board" [ [1984] 1 NZLR 394.] ). His Honour would state in one case that in different circumstances the law might develop in a certain way. He would then in later cases seize on those comments as authority to decide the case in that way.Fact|date=February 2007

Honours and awards

*1977: Knight Bachelor.
*1977: Appointed to the Privy Council.
*1986: Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE).
*1982: Honorary Fellow Gonville and Caius College.
*1985: Honorary Bencher of Inner Temple.
*1989: Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) Victoria University of Wellington.
*1990: Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) University of Cambridge.
*1991: Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law (DCL) University of Oxford.
*1993: Appointed to the International Commission of Jurists.
*1996: Created a Life Peer.
*2000: Member of the Order of New Zealand.

References

External links

*
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-2368745,00.html Obituary] , "The Times", 22 September 2006
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=QLULMZ0D1PHSRQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2006/09/26/db2602.xml Obituary] , "The Daily Telegraph", 26 September 2006
* [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/minutes/061009/ldminute.htm Announcement of his death at the House of Lords] House of Lords minutes of proceedings, 9 October 2006
* [http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/from/documents/Speech04_09_06.pdf Eulogy] , 4 September 2006 (PDF)

Persondata
NAME=Cooke of Thorndon, Robin Brunskill Cooke, Baron
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Robin Cooke
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Jurist
DATE OF BIRTH=9 May 1926
PLACE OF BIRTH=Wellington
DATE OF DEATH=30 August 2006
PLACE OF DEATH=Wellington


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