Judiciary reminded of lawyers’ right to speak te reo Māori in legal proceedings

A presiding judge queried a Crown Law Office lawyer after giving an appearance in te reo Māori

Judiciary reminded of lawyers’ right to speak te reo Māori in legal proceedings

The Māori Law Society, has reminded the judiciary that lawyers have the right to speak te reo Māori in legal proceedings.

“Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aoteaora, the Māori Law Society, supports all lawyers using te reo Māori in the courts and in practice,” said Glenn Tootill, tumuaki tāne (co-president) of the Māori Law Society.

The statement comes after a High Court judge last week queried a Crown Law Office lawyer, who gave an appearance in te reo Māori. The Law Society said that the country’s law guarantees the right to speak te reo Māori in legal proceedings, a change which was introduced more than 30 years ago after the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations.

“While Te Hunga Rōia Māori is happy to see all lawyers use te reo Māori in all courts, the Crown, in particular, has an obligation under Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016 (Māori Language Act 2016) to actively protect and promote this taonga, the Māori language, for future generations,” Marcia Murray, Te Hunga Rōia Māori tumuaki wahine (co-president).

“For Crown lawyers, an introduction in te reo Māori is a small step towards achieving that duty. But more importantly, all lawyers should be supported by the judiciary to speak te reo Māori,” she said.

Te Hunga Rōia Māori said that the government is currently selecting the next chief justice of New Zealand.

“We would expect that the minimum criteria for appointment of New Zealand’s most senior judge would include a demonstrated commitment to understanding tikanga Māori and te reo on its own terms,” the co-president said.

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