I am trying to find the exact piece of New Zealand legislation that defines the immunity of judges from civil claims resulting from doing their job (or any immunities they may have).

Section 23 of the District Court Act 2016 simply equates DC judges immunity to that of HC judges:

A Judge has the same immunities as a High Court Judge.

The Senior Courts Act 2016 (which one would expect to spell out the immunities of HC judges) only says that associate HC judges enjoy the same immumities as regular HC judges (s 28), and so do acting judges (s 118).

But just where the HC judges' immunities are defined in the first place?

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    I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out not to be defined in statute anywhere, like in the UK where it's a matter of common law. See the history set out by Denning in Sirros v Moore [1975] QB 118, and going on to look at the principles and boundaries. This case continues to be cited in UK courts. If NZ has not made its own statute (I don't know if it has) then the same common-law heritage should apply.
    – alexg
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


The New Zealand Supreme Court describes judicial immunity as "common law doctrine":

Judicial immunity is common law doctrine [citing to the English line of case law, including Sirros]. Although its existence is now acknowledged in statute, its scope remains a matter of common law.

Attorney-General v Chapman [2011] NZSC 110

The immunity of superior court judges in Canada, including judges of the Quebec Superior Court, is inherited from English law.

(Morier and Boily v. Rivard, [1985] 2 SCR 716, at paragraph 85)

That judgment goes on to cite English cases dating back to 1607, and a doctrinal text (H. Brun and G. Tremblay, Droit constitutionnel) also agreeing that the immunity stems from common law (translation):

This absolute immunity is a rule of the common law applicable to superior court judges even where bad faith has been alleged.

Courts in Canada have also recognized that judicial immunity is now constitutionalized, through the unwritten constitutional principle of judicial independence. See e.g. Taylor v. Canada (Attorney General), [2000] 3 FC 298 (C.A.) at paragraphs 58-60.

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    FWIW, judicial immunity is a common law legal doctrine acknowledged in some cases but not created by statute in the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 16:57

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