Law Society mourns death of former president

Jonathan Temm QC was a strong advocate for access to justice and the criminal justice system

Law Society mourns death of former president

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has announced the death of former president Jonathan Temm QC.

“We have lost a leader, a great advocate and a good kind man,” said current Law Society president Tiana Epati. “I know Jonathan’s passing is a particular loss for the criminal bar and for his friends and colleagues in Rotorua.”

Temm was a strong advocate for access to justice and the criminal justice system, having specialised in criminal law from early in his legal career. For a decade, he prosecuted all types of serious crime in a tenure as Crown counsel.

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He joined the independent bar in 2005 with a focus on criminal law and civil litigation, and played roles in the trials of major criminal cases like the Nia Glassie murder and the “Body in the Forest” homicide.

Temm presided over the Waikato/Bay of Plenty District Law Society for a time, and took the reins in guiding the district through significant structural changes and the regulation of the legal profession. One initiative he was involved in was the integration of the district law society into the New Zealand Law Society – during this time he was also on the board of the latter.

In 2010, Temm was elected president of the New Zealand Law Society. During his term, he helped the legal industry navigate the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. He also concentrated efforts on the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and helped to launch an overhauled regulatory system that included a new complaints-handling procedure.

He was at the helm when the Law Society consulted on and established new CPD rules, and led the organisation in the face of opposition from many members of the industry over legal aid reforms and the implementation of a new legal aid framework.

“Jonathan dealt with vociferous personal attacks with calmness and dignity. It was largely due to him that the Law Society, while robustly voicing its concerns over some of the changes, was able to constructively engage with government on this issue and the legal aid reforms were implemented with little disruption to those vulnerable clients that legal aid is designed to support,” the Law Society said.

Following the conclusion of his presidential tenure, Temm went on to chair the NZ Law Commission’s advisory committee on alternative trial processes for sexual offending as well as the Law Society’s CPD committee. He also continued to serve on the South Pacific Lawyers Association board.

He was named Queen’s Counsel in 2019.

Beyond his accomplishments, Epati also praised Temm’s kindness.

“Jonathan was incredibly generous with his time and always willing to help his fellow lawyers. When I took on the role as president, he was one of the first people who reached out and made sure I knew I could contact him at any time if I needed to talk about the pressures of the role,” she said.

Temm died on Wednesday. He was 59 years old.

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