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An all-Otago law line-up: the three sitting judges for the Court of Appeal in Dunedin in June, (from left) Hon Justices Graham Lang, Jillian Mallon and Simon Moore.

In a rare event, the three sitting judges for the Court of Appeal which takes place in Dunedin once a year, all studied at Otago.

From the left are Hon Justices Graham Lang, Jillian Mallon and Simon Moore, in the historic Dunedin High Court, in June.

“It was certainly a very significant and actually quite poignant experience,” says Justice Moore, who is based in Auckland and hadn’t stepped foot inside the Dunedin courtroom since his student days.

“It was lovely to be back in Dunedin – a sense shared by each judge, who each had their own stories about their time in Dunedin and what Law School was like then.”

He says all agreed they had a “superb legal education”, with inspirational and dedicated teachers who set them up for their careers.

“What is significant, and I think this is a relatable experience for most returning alumni, is that Dunedin and Otago University hold a special place in our hearts. Each of us has had a very different student experience but one thing common to us all is that very special southern connection.”

They also enjoyed being in the fabulous historic courtroom, although Justice Moore says it’s not the warmest place to be in the depths of winter.

Justice Lang graduated LLB (Hons) in 1980 and became a Judge of the High Court in August 2005. He also recently judged Otago’s student law moot competition in the High Court. Justice Mallon graduated LLB (Hons) in 1988 and was appointed to the High Court in 2006 and the Court of Appeal in 2023.

Taking a less direct path into his legal career, Justice Moore graduated with a BA (Hons) in Anthropology in 1977, and while he did most of his law studies at Otago, he finished his degree in Auckland. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court in 2014.

In a speech at an Otago graduation in 2010, Justice Moore described how he had always wanted to be a doctor but failed his first year “completely and comprehensively”. He moved on to dentistry which also didn’t work out, then turned to the arts and anthropology and was “captivated by brilliant teachers such as Professor Charles Higham”.

“And then, because I could, I turned to the law and was similarly inspired by brilliant men and women . . .  they transfixed me with a love and passion for what I now do and I will always be indebted to them. Such is the influence of the gifted teacher.”

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