Chief Justice of Fiji

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Judiciary of Fiji

Judicial officers
Chief Justice
Appeal Court President
Chief Magistrate
Justice of Appeal
Puisne judges
High Court Masters

Supreme Court
Court of Appeal
High Court
Magistrates Courts
Judicial Service Commission

The Chief Justice is Fiji's highest judicial officer. He or she is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is required by the Constitution to consult the Leader of the Opposition. This does not give the Leader of the Opposition a veto, only the right to be consulted. The appointment is permanent, until the Chief Justice reaches the age of 70 years. At the discretion of the government, the retirement age may be waived until the Chief Justice reaches the age of 75 years; it may be extended once more, by a maximum of three years. No person, therefore, may hold the office of Chief Justice after reaching the age of 78.

Like other judges, the Chief Justice does not have to be a Fijian citizen. When Tuivaga retired in 2002, there were calls from the Citizens Constitutional Forum (a pro-democracy, human rights organization) for a foreigner to be appointed, to recover the independence of the judiciary that had been seen to be politically compromised by the 2000 coup. The government disagreed, however, and appointed Daniel Fatiaki.

Powers of Chief Justice[edit]

According to Chapter 9 of the Fijian Constitution, The Chief Justice presides over both the Supreme Court and the High Court, but is disqualified from presiding over, or even sitting on, the Court of Appeal. This stipulation is designed to give the Appeal Court a measure of independence from the other two courts. According to the 2013 Constitution of Fiji, The Chief Justice is the first in the order of succession to discharge the duties of the President as the Acting President should the President of Fiji be absent from the duty or from Fiji or is for any other reason unable to perform the function of the president or if the Office of the President becomes vacant for any reason. The 2013 Constitution also stipulates that in the absence of the Chief Justice, the next senior most substantive judge shall perform the of the President as the Acting President.

Effect of 2000 Coup[edit]

The constitutional arrangements relating to the Chief Justice were temporarily overturned in 2000, following a counter-coup by Commodore Frank Bainimarama to neutralize a civilian coup d'état instigated by George Speight. The then-Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga recognized the Interim Military Government that took office and abrogated the Constitution on 29 May, and drafted the controversial Administration of Justice Decree that was immediately promulgated by the military administration. This decree abolished the Supreme Court, made the Chief Justice head of the Appeal Court, and raised the retirement age of the Chief Justice from 70 years to 75. These changes were reversed following a decision of the High Court to reinstate the Constitution on 15 November 2000, a decision upheld by the Appeal Court on 1 March 2001.

Current Chief Justice[edit]

The present Chief Justice is Anthony Gates, who succeeded Daniel Fatiaki following the military coup that deposed the Qarase government on 5 December 2006, when Commodore Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Acting President of Fiji, sent Fatiaki on leave. [1] The military regime named him as Acting Chief Justice on 3 January 2007, and installed him as the formal Chief Justice on 5 December 2008.

List of Chief Justices of Fiji[edit]

Chief Justice of the Kingdom of Fiji (1872–1874)[edit]

The first Chief Justice of Fiji was appointed by King Cakobau during the short-lived Kingdom of Fiji.

  • 1872–1874: Sir Charles St Julian [1] (died in office 27 November 1874, a few weeks after Fiji's annexation by Britain.)

Chief Justice of the Colony of Fiji (1875–1877)[edit]

Fiji was annexed (somewhat unwillingly) by Great Britain on 10 October 1874, and the Colony of Fiji was established under the provisions of the Pacific Islanders Protection Acts of 1872 and 1875, which sought to bring the rule of law to British subjects who were engaged in blackbirding to supply labour for the European-run cotton plantations in Fiji.

Chief Justice of Fiji and Chief Judicial Commissioner for the Western Pacific (1877–1961)[edit]

The British Western Pacific Territories were established by the Western Pacific Orders-in-Council 1877 (amended in 1879 and 1880), and by the Pacific Order-in-Council 1893.[note 1]

The functions of the monarch as head of state were exercised by a High Commissioner of the Western Pacific, who was also ex officio the Governor of Fiji (after 1953, the Governor of the Solomon Islands). The High Commission provided a justice system for the entire region, whose senior judge was the Chief Justice of the High Commissioner's Court, otherwise known as the Chief Judicial Commissioner of the Western Pacific. The post was held ex officio by the Chief Justice of Fiji. Appeals lay to the Privy Council in London.

  • 1910–1911 (acting) Albert Ehrhardt [18]

Between 1942–1945 the High Commission was suspended by military administration during the War in the Pacific.

In 1953, Fiji and Tonga separated from the High Commission as a prelude to full independence, and the High Commission offices were transferred to Honiara on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The office of High Commissioner was separated from that of the Governor of Fiji, although the High Commissioner's Court continued to sit in Suva, and the Chief Justice of Fiji remained the Chief Judicial Commissioner of the Western Pacific.

Chief Justice of Fiji (1962-present)[edit]

From 1962 the High Court's functions began to be transferred to the increasingly independent island states under the provisions of Western Pacific (Courts) Order in Council, 1961.[36] The Judicial Commissioner for the Western Pacific became the Chief Justice of the High Court of the Western Pacific, and removed from Fiji to join the rest of the High Commission in the Solomon Islands. The position was separated from that of the Chief Justice of Fiji.[37] In 1976 the High Commission of the Western Pacific was abolished, the last archives being finally packed up in Honiara in August 1978.[38] Although no longer connected with the British High Commission, the position of Chief Justice of Fiji continued to be filled by judges from Britain, Australia and New Zealand until the appointment of Timoci Tuivaga in 1980. See Appendix A below for a list of the remaining British High Commission judges.

  • 1963 Clifford Hammett (acting CJ)[42]

Fiji gained independence on 10 October 1970.

Appendix A[edit]

Chief Justice of the High Court of the Western Pacific (1962–1976)

Although no longer connected with Fiji, the British High Commission judges continued to sit in the Solomon Islands from 1962, and the short list is appended here for the sake of completeness.

  • 1967–1973 vacant?
  • 1973 Sir Dermot Renn Davis was appointed Judge of the High Court of the Western Pacific and as British Judge of the Joint Court of the Condominium of the New Hebrides.[66]

Most of the island groups had gained some form of independence by 1971. On 2 January 1976 after nearly all had been given separate statehood, the office of High Commissioner and the entity of the Pacific Territories were abolished. Its only remnant was the High Court of the Western Pacific, and between 1978-1980 the former territories gained full independence.[67] The relative lack of a trained judiciary and lawyers in the smaller states meant that Britain (and later Australia and New Zealand) continued to supply some members of the legal profession after independence. The only High Court for some island states was the High Court of the Western Pacific in Fiji and, as late as the seventies, appeals lay to the Fiji Court of Appeal.[37]


  1. ^ "B. (1.) The Chief Justice and every other judge for the time being of the Supreme Court, shall be, by virtue of his office, a Judicial Commissioner for the Western Pacific for the purposes of this Order, and is in this Order referred to as a Judicial Commissioner.
    (2.) Where, in the opinion of the High Commissioner, the attendance of a Judicial Commissioner holding office as aforesaid is impracticable, or would be inconvenient, the High Commissioner may from time to time in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty, by writing under his hand and seal, appoint a person of legal knowledge and experience to be a Judicial Commissioner for particular purposes or for a particular time. The London Gazette, 8 September 1893 (26439), pp. 5119-5121.
  1. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography
  2. ^ Appointment as CJ London Gazette, 23 April 1875
  3. ^ The Irish Canadian, 13 June 1877 Died in Colombo of cholera 1877
  4. ^ Brereton 1997, p. 104.
  5. ^ Cooper, Charles Alfred (1896) An editor's retrospect; fifty years of newspaper work p. 147
  6. ^ London Gazette, 19 June, 1883
  7. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography
  8. ^ Bennett, John Michael. Sir Henry Wrenfordsley: Second Chief Justice of Western Australia, 1880-1883
  9. ^ Knighthood for Chief Justice of Fiji and Chief Judicial Commissioner for the Western Pacific Knighthood for Berkeley
  10. ^ 'The Times' 2 October 1918: 30 September 1918, death of Sir Henry Spencer Berkeley, 3rd son of Thomas Berkeley Hardtman-Berkeley
  11. ^ Dictionary of Australasian Biography
  12. ^ Family tree at RootsWeb
  13. ^ Replaced Berkeley in 1902 The Otago Witness, 13 August 1902
  14. ^ Knighted June 1911, still CJ, W. Pacific
  15. ^ Sir Charles Major biog. Chief Justice of Fiji and Chief Judicial Commissioner for the W. Pacific 1902-14 (maybe 1902-11) and M.E.C.(possibly HC=High Commissioner) of Fiji 1905-14
  16. ^ Announcement as CJ, British Guiana The Edinburgh Gazette, 29 September, 1914
  17. ^ This source says that Albert Ehrhardt, the Attorney-General, was acting as JCWP in October 1910 (p.148) and that Charles Major "had returned to his substantive position as JCWP" by August 1911 (p.153) (Lavaka 1981, pp. 148, 153)
  18. ^ Ehrhardt was also Attorney General 1903-1914. Charles Major seems to have been doing something else.(Lavaka 1981, pp. 148)
  19. ^ (1857-1933) Charles Davson: called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1881. Joined the Bar of British Guiana in 1882. Solicitor General, 1898. Appointed Puisne Judge of Mauritius in 1905; Chief Justice of Fiji and Chief Judicial Commissioner for Western Pacific in 1914. Knighted 1917.
  20. ^ The Times 13 February 1917, p. 6
  21. ^ Died 6 November 1933
  22. ^ Stewart's Handbook of the Pacific p. 90
  23. ^ Daley 1996, p. 114.
  24. ^ His surname was Muir Mackenzie
  25. ^ Acting Chief Justice (Fiji) between 1922 and 1923
  26. ^ He was appointed Chief Justice of Fiji and Chief Judicial Commissioner for the Western Pacific. Tuesday 25 February 1936 Corrie
  27. ^ definite dates of office
  28. ^ Biography
  29. ^ By May 1950 Seton was chairing a judicial inquiry in Kenya Kenya Gazette, 9 May 1950
  30. ^ CJ Tonga & Solomon Islands, a Judicial Commissioner 1930 Burra Record 18 June 1930
  31. ^ Knighted 1956 London Gazette 10 February 1956 p. 825
  32. ^ V. brief biog. His father's surname was Hein.
  33. ^ Notice of death, Sydney Morning Herald 6 October 1966
  34. ^ Picture of Hyne in judge's wig & robe
  35. ^ Christie's sale of medals with biog.
  36. ^ Care & Paterson 2007, p. 15.
  37. ^ a b Justice Gordon Ward (2005) Achieving effective legal representation in small Pacific island Commonwealth States. Commonwealth Law Conference, London, September 2005
  38. ^ "Western Pacific High Commission". Ameliapedia. TIGHAR.  Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  39. ^ (was PJ Kenya) London Gazette 27 February 1962 p. 1682
  40. ^ Captain MacDuff,Col J. L. MacDuff, MC, m.i.d.; born Wellington, NZ, 11 Dec 1905; barrister and solicitor; CO 27 (MG) Bn Sep 1943–Feb 1944; 25 Bn Mar–Jun 1944; Adv Base, 2 NZEF, Jun–Jul 1944; Chief Justice, Fiji 1962; died Suva, 11 Jul 1963. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45 There is also an ordinary web page...
  41. ^ Auckland War Memorial Museum, Cenotaph database
  42. ^ "Fiji Law Reports" 9 FLR 129 (23 August 1963)
  43. ^ Mr Mills-Owens, Puisine Judge, Hong Kong, has been appointed Chief Justice of Fiji, the Colonial Office announced today Mr. Mills-Owens is 54. The Straits Times, 18 March 1964
  44. ^ Temp. Sub Lts. transferred to Permanent R.N.R,, in rank of Sub Lt. with seny. as stated: R. J. E. H. MILLS-OWENS, B.A. 9 December 1957 London Gazette, 31 January 1961
  45. ^ Clifford James Hammett, judge: born 8 June 1917; Magistrate, Nigeria 1946-52; called to the Bar, Middle Temple 1948; Senior Magistrate, Fiji 1954, Puisne Judge 1955, Chief Justice, Fiji 1967-72, Acting Governor General 1971; conjoint Chief Justice of Tonga 1956-68; Kt 1969; Regional Legal Adviser with British Development Division in the Caribbean 1975-92; married 1946 Olive Applebee (four sons, one daughter); died Henham, Essex 28 June 1999.Obituary, Independent Friday 9 July 1999
  46. ^ Knighted on board Britannia 5 March 1970, approved June 1969 London Gazette 23 April 1970 p. 4579
  47. ^ Private papers of Sir Clifford Hammett, Imperial War Museum
  48. ^ Puisne Judge, Fiji: The London Gazette, 24 February 1956
  49. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July 1980
  50. ^ Biography, Northern Territory official website
  51. ^ The List of Notaries Public at shows that Grant was still CJ in 1980.
  52. ^ Full Biography with big picture
  53. ^ Burke's Peerage
  54. ^ Involvement in politics? 1977
  55. ^ LLB Liverpool university in the 1940s
  56. ^ London gazette 10 June 1977 Knighted silver Jubilee honours 1977
  57. ^ His brother also studied at Liverpool uni.
  58. ^ Knighthood, June 1977 7th supplement to The London Gazette, 10 June 1977, p. 7137
  59. ^ Served 31 March 1980–31 July 2002. Reminiscences by Tuivaga of his time as Chief Justice. Legal Lali, 5:2,2 December 2002. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  60. ^ April 1962. The QUEEN has been pleased to give directions for the appointment of Geoffrey Gould Briggs, Esq., Puisne Judge, Unified Judiciary of Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei, to be Chief Justice designate to the High Court of the Western Pacific.
  61. ^ Justice Gerard Winter. One South Pacific. One regional court. Three case studies.
  62. ^ London Gazette, 4 March 1969 Knighthood
  63. ^ Died 27 April 1997 London Gazette Issue 54773, 23 May 1997
  64. ^ Van Der Vat, Dan Eel Pie Island with picture
  65. ^ He was the grandson of Francis Bodilly, artist and colonial judge. He married Phyllis Maureen Gotch, also an artist. His grandmother was also a Gotch. Cornwall artists index
  66. ^ The London Gazette, 15 March 1973, p. 3407
  67. ^ Biles 1996, p. 1157.
  • Brereton, Bridget (1997). Law, Justice and Empire: The Colonial Career of John Gorrie 1829-1892. University of the West Indies Press. ISBN 9789766400354. 
  • Care, Jennifer Corrin; Paterson, Donald Edgar (2007). Introduction to South Pacific Law (revised, 2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9781845680398. 

Further reading[edit]