Country to city, delivering justice for different communities

Judge Jenny Binns — Family Court Judge

As a District Court judge I have adjusted well to working in a city after starting out in a smaller centre.

I have never found change easy. When I first became a judge, the move away from close friends and community was my biggest challenge. However, I discovered that working in a smaller community can be uniquely rewarding.

In my previous home court of Palmerston North, there were more self-represented litigants because very few family lawyers did legal aid work. Dealing directly with parties was sometimes challenging, but also enjoyable and stimulating.

Image of Judge Binns.Being based in a semi-rural area requires travel to surrounding courts. Some were in remote places, and only opened on the day court was sitting. Sometimes there was no security and, commonly, few of the usual resources and no personal support. Laptops often didn't work. You were very much on your own.

I have a soft spot for rural New Zealand. I grew up in a small South Island farming community. On an extended stay with an aunt in the North Island, I attended school in remote Whangamomona.

I particularly enjoyed my experiences as a judge in these "grassroots" New Zealand centres, where proceedings were sometimes less formal. In Taumarunui, I once had a defendant play his guitar to me, and in Ohakune, a defendant arrived at court on horseback.

Two years ago, I moved to the capital where I have family and friends. Now when I travel to regional courts, other judges are more likely to be there too. My life has been enriched by my new colleagues.

Meeting new lawyers, court and other support staff and experiencing the advocacy styles of a fresh group of lawyers has also been rewarding. I am enjoying the many social and cultural events Wellington offers, and I get to mix with a wider range of ethnic groups.

Ultimately, wherever I am, I strive to give all parties a fair and compassionate hearing, while balancing the demands of completing all scheduled matters professionally and competently.

"I particularly enjoyed my experiences in these "grassroots" New Zealand  centres … I once had a defendant play his guitar to me …"