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Hansen, Sir John --- "Foreword" [2016] OtaLawFS 3; The Search for Certainty: essays in honour of John Smillie viii

Last Updated: 31 May 2019

lightly but as this incident demonstrates he was also very approachable, supportive and generous with his time.

I came to appreciate John’s teaching abilities anew when I later studied overseas and realised that even on the international stage there were few who were as good a law teacher as he was.

Festschriften are a rare honour reserved for pre-eminent scholars. John is undoubtedly in that category and thoroughly deserving of such a tribute. He has had a distinguished career, established himself as a leading academic and made a very significant contribution to legal education and the development of the law in this country. I am proud to have been taught by him and to be asked to contribute to this foreword.

Hon Justice Christine French

It is impossible to encapsulate a lifelong friendship in a few words.

In 1963 I nervously attended my first Legal System lecture in a prefabricated building at the northern end of campus. I found myself sitting next to a bespectacled red headed young man. Our lecturer was the inestimable Professor Frank Guest. fte lecture started on a doom laden note. We were informed that only one in three of us could expect to earn an LLB. In retrospect, the statistics were amazingly accurate.

Fortunately, John Smillie (universally known as Ginge in those days) and I were in the one in three group. From that initial lecture a lifetime friendship was formed. Firstly, through Law School with many late night discussions over jurisprudence and other subjects, occasionally fuelled by the odd Speights. Our torts moot, again in front of Frank Guest, where I quickly came over all weak and sat down leaving John to present the whole argument. Which he did with aplomb. Our paths were different. John pursued academia in the USA and then Australia before returning to Otago to become one of its most distinguished fixtures. I went into practice in Dunedin and then was lucky enough to enjoy a judicial career in Hong Kong and then New Zealand.

ftroughout our increasingly lengthy life span we have always been in close contact. In Dunedin, North Canterbury, Hong Kong, and once, memorably, in London, Ontario. fte Hansens arrived at the Smillie’s door a couple of days after they had taken up residence prior to a sabbatical at the University of Western Ontario. Leaving our daughter behind, we immediately were off to a country fair to enjoy tractor pulling, hog wrestling and lukewarm beer, drunk from the ubiquitous


brown paper bag. On return to Chez Smillie, our daughter informed us that a tornado had swept past nearby in our absence causing considerable damage. Such has been the closeness of our families that bizarre tales abound. Although, as our wives keep reminding us, the stories get greatly exaggerated with each passing year.

But wherever we met there was constant discussion and debate. Often, but not always, about the law. Topics ranged over a wide range as well as the law. Literature, politics, fishing and sport. fte list is pretty well endless. Direct criticism of judgments was high on the list in recent times. And what a formidable brain to debate with. John had an ability to comprehend the real issues at the heart of the most complex problems quicker than anyone else I have ever met. ftis was allied with encyclopaedic knowledge that allowed him to bring solutions to bear in a clear and concise manner. He abhorred cant and the obtuse. His incisive thinking and lucid writing would have graced appellate courts. But if that had been the course he had chosen, Otago Law School would have been the loser. Countless students have benefitted from his immense skills over many years. However, I am bound to say that John’s balanced succinctness in his lecturing has not always carried over to submissions or judgments from those of his students who ended up at the bar.

Students, now scattered around the world, have gained much from his teachings and his influence has been far greater than a few judgments would have achieved. Otago Law School have had no greater servant and I have had no greater friend.

Sir John Hansen KNZM


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