If you’ve ever wondered what the induction of a new judge into the court system in New Zealand might be like, you might have imagined rows of dark-suited lawyers, and elderly be-wigged Pakeha men presiding.
When we were invited to the swearing-in of Auckland barrister Faumui Penelope (Lope) Ginnen as a Judge in the Manukau District Court we knew it would be different – Lope and her partner Sharon Hawke (both former AGGS students) have been to dinner here a couple times and had talked about the invitation list.
The event proved to be an amazing celebration of Aotearoa today- of justice in a modern setting – an elegant and educative disruption of Court customs.
More than 300 people of many cultures- Maori, Pakeha, Tongan, Samoan, Cook Island, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Fijian, Indian and others, many in traditional dress – crowded into court Room Number 1 in the Manukau District Court, and spilled out into the corridors. Lope and her family – both Palagi and Samoan- were escorted in, with conchs, karakia, speeches and waiata by Ngaati Whatua Orakei, and Samoan elders were welcomed by Tainui representatives into the Manukau rohe.
After this welcome, we all reassembled facing the other way, with five judges sitting in black robes at a bench in the front of the court- all but one were women, none of them with wigs. One was Ida Malosi, the first Samoan judge appointed in New Zealand, and another was Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren, a judge from the Supreme Court in Samoa, and there were two Pakeha women as well.
Lope took her oath of allegiance and read the commitment to service in Maori, English and Samoan, and the speeches and waiata from those welcoming her to the bench were warm and in many languages.
When the speeches were finished, Lope responded, acknowledging her family, her partner Sharon, friends, mentors, colleagues and other guests in the most gracious and loving way.
And finally, a huge and delicious Pacific fusion feast was served .
The whole experience promised that any court room in which Lope presides will be a place of warmth, strength, grace, courage and justice – and sometimes managed in unconventional ways when it is important to disrupt traditions which have become stale habits.