Thomas Eichelbaum

The Right Honourable
Sir Thomas Eichelbaum
11th Chief Justice of New Zealand
In office
1989  17 May 1999
Nominated by David Lange
Appointed by Sir Paul Reeves
Preceded by Sir Ronald Davison
Succeeded by Dame Sian Elias
Personal details
Born (1931-05-17) 17 May 1931
Königsberg, Germany
Spouse(s) Vida, Lady Eichelbaum

Sir Johann Thomas Eichelbaum GBE PC QC (born 17 May 1931) was the 11th Chief Justice of New Zealand.

Early life

Eichelbaum was born in Königsberg, Germany, and his family emigrated to Wellington, New Zealand in 1938 to escape the persecution of Jews.[1] he was educated at Hutt Valley High School, then attended Victoria University of Wellington graduating with a LL.B in 1954.

High Court Judge to Chief Justice of New Zealand

In 1978 Eichelbaum was appointed a Queen's Counsel[2] and during 1980-1982 was President of the New Zealand Law Society. In 1982 Eichelbaum was appointed a judge of the High Court of New Zealand. The highest judicial position Eichelbaum held was in 1989 when he was appointed the Chief Justice of New Zealand[3] and retired from the Bench in 1999.


Since retiring as a judge, Sir Thomas has conducted investigations on a number of controversial topics. He chaired the 2000–2001 Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. He also investigated the reasons for New Zealand losing co-hosting rights to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Following his report, the chairman and the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Union both resigned.

In 2001, he conducted a ministerial inquiry reviewing children's evidence in the controversial Peter Ellis case. His report, which has been widely criticised,[4] upheld the guilty verdicts and stands in contrast to an earlier report by retired High Court judge, Sir Thomas Thorp. A New Zealand Law Journal editorial has stated that Eichelbaum had either not read all the children's statements (reviewing only those allowed by the trial judge) or that, "with respect, his judgment is at fault."[5]

On 6 February 1989 Eichelbaum was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of The Order of British Empire (GBE).[6][7] and later that same year was appointed to the Privy Council. Eichelbaum is (May 2008) a non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong SAR Court of Final Appeal and a part-time justice of the Supreme Court of Fiji and the Court of Appeal of Fiji.

He is married with three adult sons and lives on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington.


  1. For instance, on one occasion Eichelbaum was attacked by a group of other schoolchildren, and even the adult who stopped the assault abused him, calling him ‘a bloody Jew’. James N. Bade and James Braund (Eds), ed. (1998). Out of the Shadow of War: The German Connection with New Zealand in the Twentieth Century. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558363-9.
  2. "Appointment of Queen's Counsel" (16 November 1978) 100 New Zealand Gazette 3125 at 3127.
  3. "Appointment of Chief Justice of NewZealand" (9 February 1989) 22 New Zealand Gazette 479 at 481.
  4. Francis, Ross (November–December 2007). "New Evidence in the Peter Ellis case" (PDF). New Zealand Law Journal. Retrieved 25 March 2008.
  5. Robertson, Bernard (February 2002). "Editorial: The Ellis case" (PDF). New Zealand Law Journal: 1. ISSN 0028-8373. Retrieved 27 April 2006.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 51636. p. 1. 6 February 1989.
  7. "Honours and Awards" (16 February 1989) 27 New Zealand Gazette 613 at 614.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.