New Chief Justice named as Justice Michael Hargreaves Whitten

Ko e 'Eiki Fakamaau Lahi fo'ou ke kamata ngāue 'i Tonga ko Michael Heagreaves Whitten mei 'Aositelēlia ke ne fetongi 'a Owen Paulsen. 'E kamata ngāue 'a Whitten 'i Sepitema 'aho 2.

Justice Michael Hargreaves Whitten will be the new Supreme Court Chief Justice, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice has confirmed to Kaniva news.

Justice Whitten from Australia will replace former Chief Justice Owen Paulsen, who has been appointed an Associate Judge of the High Court of New Zealand.  

Paulsen has been the kingdom’s top jurist since 2015 and has led the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal in the last four years.

Whitten will take up the job after next month.

“The new Chief Justice is Mr. Michael Hargreaves Whitten. He will commence working as the Lord Chief Justice of Tonga on 2 September 2019,” the Ministry of Justice Registrar Fātima Fonua said in an email to Kaniva news this afternoon.

Whitten was graduated with a BCom and an LL.B.

He served at the Public Defenders Office from 1986-1988; Associate Judge Kimmins Queensland District Court 1988-89 ; Solicitor – Blake Dawson Waldron 1989-90 ; Queensland Bar 1991-95 ; Solicitor – Kliger Partners, Victoria 1996.

Whitten has practised in the law for over 30 years, gaining broad experience in various aspects of the profession, the Victorian Bar website said.

In 1996, after migrating to Melbourne, he spent a year at Kliger Partners in commercial litigation before signing the Victorian Bar Roll in 1997. Since then, he has practised predominantly in civil and commercial litigation.

He has appeared in all courts and many tribunals in Victoria, Queensland, NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Federal Court and on special leave applications before the High Court.  He also appears in international arbitrations.  Whitten participates in the   Victorian Bar’s pro bono scheme.

Over the last 15 years or more, Whitten has specialised in all aspects of building and construction disputes

He was honoured with Worldwide Who’s Who for Excellence in Commercial Law (2015), Doyle’s Guide Leading Construction & Infrastructure Barristers – Victoria (2017 and 2018) and Best Lawyers in Australia for work in Construction/Infrastructure Law (2017).


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