Addressing parties of Asian descent in court

Chief High Court Judge the Hon Justice Venning has circulated a letter concerning the correct and appropriate addressing of counsel and witnesses of Asian descent. Practitioners are advised to take note of the Chief Judge’s comments, as follows:

“There are an increasing number of litigants (and counsel) of Asian descent appearing before our Courts (particularly in Auckland).

At our recent High Court Judges’ conference a number of Judges noted that it can be difficult to ensure they were addressing parties, counsel and witnesses appropriately. Judges noted there are inconsistent practices in the intitulements of pleadings and the way the parties are referred to in written submissions and orally. Not all Chinese names for example are set out in the traditional Eastern order in Court papers. Some cultures use personal titles like Mr and Ms with forenames rather than surnames when speaking formally.

The Judges would be grateful for the assistance of solicitors and counsel to ensure that, as far as possible, they are addressing or referring to the parties appropriately in Court and in judgments. It would be helpful if, for instance, surnames on pleadings could be highlighted or underlined. In Court, it would help if counsel could introduce parties or witnesses in an appropriate way to identify the proper surname and honorific for the Court.”

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