The legal profession will be saddened at news of the death of Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“Sir Thomas was Chief Justice from February 1989 to May 1999. He was the first Chief Justice who had served as a member of the judiciary before his appointment. He was an excellent administrator who was respected by all as a person of integrity who was also willing to consult and seek advice where necessary. The Criminal Appeal Division of the Court of Appeal was established during Sir Thomas’ time as Chief Justice and this was a very successful initiative. A humble and very approachable man, his time as Chief Justice was viewed as one where the efficiency of our courts was greatly enhanced.
“Sir Thomas was also President of the New Zealand Law Society from 1980 to 1982. Before that he had been very active in the legal profession and was a key player in enactment of the Law Practitioners Act 1982, which made what were very progressive changes at the time to the regulatory requirements of the profession.
“On his retirement as President, the Law Society’s Council’s tribute to him included the statement that he was a ‘very friendly, humane and cheerful and essentially, modest man’. By all accounts that summed him up.
“Sir Thomas arrived in New Zealand in 1938 at the age of seven, a refugee from Nazi Germany. His rise to prominence in the legal profession and the judiciary from such a beginning is in itself a statement of his determination and ability. We have lost an important contributor to our justice system.”