Sir Owen Woodhouse and the Making of New Zealand Law


  • Geoff McLay



In the 2022 Sir Owen Woodhouse Memorial Lecture, I considered what it means to make law in New Zealand. Using examples from Sir Owen Woodhouse's illustrious career as a judge and law reformer, I argued that there are important differences in judges' and law reformers' conceptions of "making law". The common law is best seen not as a collection of rules but as a custom as to how to go about recognising what the law is. As a result, it is better to think of what New Zealand judges do as making common law in New Zealand, rather than remaking a New Zealand common law outside pre-existing traditions. The lecture illustrates this point by analysing the Supreme Court's decision in Ellis v R (Continuance), which was decided between the lecture being given in Wellington and its being given in Auckland in October 2022.


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How to Cite

McLay, G. (2024). Sir Owen Woodhouse and the Making of New Zealand Law. Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 54(4), 857–882.

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