Deborah Chambers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Deborah, Lady Chambers QC (née Tohill) is a leading New Zealand Queen's Counsel specialising in relationship property and trusts law. She was married to the New Zealand Supreme Court judge, Sir Robert Chambers until his death in 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Chambers grew up in the working class suburb of Glenfield on the North Shore in Auckland, New Zealand. She attended Takapuna Primary School, Carmel College Catholic Girls School and Auckland Metropolitan College, an alternative state school.[1]

She graduated from the University of Auckland in 1982 with a BA/LLB. At university she was variously Women’s Rights Officer on the Student Union Executive, President of the University Feminists and a member of the Law School Student Committee.[1]

Chambers married Dr Charles Hollings in 1987. She is the mother of their two children, Caitlin and Zelda Hollings. In 2004 she married Justice Robert Chambers of the New Zealand Court of Appeal and became a step-mother to his two sons David and Chris Chambers.[1] Justice Chambers was appointed as a Supreme Court Judge in 2012. He died suddenly on 21 May 2013 as a result of a brain aneurism. He was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013 Birthday Honours. As royal assent was given to the appointment before Justice Chambers's death, his knighthood took effect from 20 May 2013.[2] Chambers sponsors the annual Justice Sir Robert Chambers Memorial Moot held by at the University of Auckland Law School.[3]

In 2015 Lady Chambers's eldest step-son, David, commenced legal proceedings against the executors of his father’s estate seeking greater provision than provided in his father’s will. David’s claims in regard to removing Lady Chambers and her fellow executor, the family solicitor, were unsuccessful. He was also unsuccessful in seeking to impose a constructive trust.[4][5]

Legal career[edit]

After graduation she worked as a solicitor at Butler White & Hannah, Meredith Connell, and Russell McVeagh MacKenzie Bartleet & Co. She also spent a year in Glasgow, Scotland, as a Procurator Fiscal Depute prosecuting crime.

In 1989 Chambers went to the bar joining Shortland Chambers. In 1994 she appeared with Alan Galbraith QC in the Privy Council acting for the Hon. Richard Prebble, then Minister of State-Owned Assets in Prebble v Television New Zealand Ltd.[6] In 2007 she joined Bankside Chambers and was appointed a Queen's Counsel the same year. She is sometimes known as "the Divorce Queen".[1][7][5][8]

Chambers was counsel in many significant relationship property and trust cases in New Zealand. She advocated for broadening the definition of "property" to include for example a spouse or partner's enhanced earning capacity in Z v Z and for better recognition of economic disparity in cases like M v B on behalf of traditional wives.[1] More recently she acted as counsel for the wife in Clayton v Clayton. The decisions of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in that case rewrote the landscape in regard to trust law in New Zealand.[9][10]

In 2015 Chambers was placed 34th on a power list of New Zealand’s leading influential lawyers.[11]

She is a member and served as a past-President of the Auckland Women Lawyers' Association. She is also a member of the Auckland Law School’s Innovation and Development Fund Campaign Committee.[1] She is a member of the New Zealand Law Society Practice Approval Committee and a member of the Advisory Board for the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal.[12]


  • For Richer For Poorer (CCH, 2001).
  • Of Gold Diggers and Possums – Section 15 of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (paper presented to the New Zealand Law Society Conference, October 2001).
  • The quantum of economic disparity [2010] NZLJ 366.
  • Co-author New Zealand Master Trusts Guide (CCH, 2011).
  • “Hunger Games – Weapons for a game of Trusts” (paper presented to the New Zealand Law Society Trusts Conference, June 2013).
  • Baby, Baby, Baby, Where did our trust go?” (paper presented to the International Family Law Conference, Queenstown, September 2015).
  • Simple policy changes could help close pay gap” (NZ Herald, 30 March 2016).


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Up in the Lift". Ingenio, The University of Auckland Alumni Magazine: 20–22. Autumn 2016.
  2. ^ "Death of Justice Robert Chambers". The National Business Review. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  3. ^ "The Justice Sir Robert Chambers Memorial Moot Final 2017 | Bankside". Bankside. 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  4. ^ Chambers v Chambers (583), 6 April 2016, retrieved 14 June 2017
  5. ^ a b "Where there's a will, there's a way to challenge it". Stuff. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Prebble v. Television New Zealand Ltd. (P.C.)". Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Student Lecture: Lady Deborah Chambers QC – The University of Auckland". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  8. ^ Noted. "Who really runs this town? – Metro". Noted. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Law to look at messy divorces". NZ Herald. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Business Insider: Lawyers see landmark in $28m trust battle". NZ Herald. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  11. ^ "The Power List – LawFuel New Zealand". LawFuel New Zealand. 19 November 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Launch of New Zealand Women's Law Journal". LawNews (4). 24 February 2017.