Kenneth Keith

Sir Kenneth James Keith ONZ KBE QC (born 19 November 1937)[1] is a New Zealand Judge appointed to the International Court of Justice in November 2005.

Sir Kenneth Keith

Keith in 2011
Personal details
Born (1937-11-19) 19 November 1937
Auckland, New Zealand
Alma materVictoria University College
Harvard University
ProfessionLawyer, judge

Keith was educated at the Auckland Grammar School and studied law at the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, and Harvard Law School. He was a faculty member of Victoria University from 1962 to 1964 and from 1966 to 1991. He served in the New Zealand Department of External Affairs during the early 1960s, and as a member of the United Nations Secretariat from 1968 to 1970. After this, he was Director of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs[2][3] and later became President of the New Zealand Law Commission. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System which was key in changing New Zealand's electoral system. In 1993 he was a member of the Working Party on the Reorganisation of the Income Tax Act 1976 which was instrumental in launching a fundamental reform the way New Zealand tax legislation was written.

From 1996 to 2003, Keith was a Judge of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand and was a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. He was subsequently one of the inaugural appointments to the new Supreme Court of New Zealand which replaced the Privy Council. Prior to his appointment to the International Court of Justice, he sat (as required) as a Judge of Appeal in Samoa (since 1982), the Cook Islands (since 1982) and Niue (since 1995), and Judge of the Supreme Court of Fiji. He has also sat as the Chair of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Tribunal (UPS v Canada).

In 1961 Keith was admitted to the New Zealand Bar and in 1994 appointed a Queen's Counsel.[4] In 1996 Keith was appointed as a Judge of High Court of New Zealand and the Court of Appeal of New Zealand[5] On 21 May 1998 Keith was appointed to the Privy Council[6] and in 2004 was appointed to the Supreme Court of New Zealand.[7]

Sir Kenneth is the first New Zealander to be elected to the International Court of Justice (2006-2015) and has previously presented as a member of the New Zealand legal team in the Nuclear Tests cases before the International Court of Justice in 1973, 1974 and 1995.[8]

Honours and awards

In the Queen's Birthday Honours 1988 Keith was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire "for services to law reform and legal education"[9] and in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2007 Keith was appointed to the Order of New Zealand.[10][11]

Preceded by
Pieter Kooijmans
Judge of International Court of Justice
Succeeded by
James Crawford (jurist)



  1. "The Supremes – who's who on NZ'S highest court". New Zealand Herald. 30 March 2005. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  2. Archived 29 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs Archived 21 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. "Appointment of Queen’s Counsel" (6 October 1994) 101 New Zealand Gazette 3001 at 3021.
  5. "Appointment of Judge of High Court and Court of Appeal" (15 February 1996) 13 New Zealand Gazette 421 at 443.
  6. "Appointments to the Privy Council" (28 May 1998) 74 New Zealand 1613 at 1644.
  7. "Appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court" (20 November 2003) 157 New Zealand Gazette 4333 at 4357.
  8. "New Zealand at the International Court of Justice". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  9. "The Queen's Birthday Honours 1988" (20 June 1988) 104 New Zealand Gazette 2453.
  10. "The Queen's Birthday Honours 2007" (13 June 2007) 63 New Zealand Gazette 1657.
  11. Johnston, Martin (4 June 2007). "Heroes in word and deed". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
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