The ‘Judge’ who isn’t actually a Judge


THE MAN handpicked by the Government to deal with rogue real estate agents has been masquerading as a judge.

In 2011 Associate Justice Minister Nathan Guy appointed Paul Barber chairperson of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Tribunal was established under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008, and deals with the licensing and discipline of real estate agents.

Barber is a former district court judge who claims to be 78-years-old.

In 2009 Attorney General Chris Finlayson appointed Barber as an acting district court judge to help reduce caseloads in the civil and criminal courts.

He would have been 72 at the time – two years older than the mandatory retirement age for judges in New Zealand.   

However, under section 10 of the District Courts Act 1947 a former judge who has reached the age of 70 years may be appointed for a period of up to one year, or for two or more periods not exceeding four years in the aggregate. But Section 10 also specifies that each appointment must not exceed one year if the person is 72-years-old as in Barber’s case.

If that provision of the law was applied as it should have in the case of Barber, he would not have held a judge’s warrant when he was appointed chairman of the Real Estate Disciplinary Tribunal.

But despite that, during his tenure as chairman he has continued to refer to himself as a judge.

On the READT website Barber is referred to as “Judge Barber’. On tribunal decisions he signs off as ‘Judge PF Barber’ – he’s even down as ‘Judge PF Barber’ on his White Pages listing.


But last night Barber admitted he was not a judge.

'Judge' Paul Barber

‘Judge’ Paul Barber

He claimed it was his staff who referred to him as a judge, but conceded it was not something he actively discouraged.

He said he also wasn’t concerned about exposed as a fraud.

But there’s other things with Barber’s story that don’t quite ring true.

On his bio, Barber says he was a senior commercial partner with Young Swan McKay & Co in Wellington from 1963 until his appointment as a District Court Judge in 1981. He retired from the Bench in 1997 but continued to hold an acting warrant up until a few years ago

However, if Barber is 78, as he claims, he would have been a ‘senior partner’ at just 26 – unprecedented in New Zealand legal history.

We’ll have more on this story in the next few days.

cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.



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  • oldmanNZ

    one would think he should retire? especially as a judge.
    As age can cloud judgment considerably.

    I know some old people like to work as it gives them something to do. but normally you plan that when you retire.

    • Gollum

      Better run that comment past Winston and edit accordingly.

  • Seriously?

    I think a retired judge it still addressed as Judge – unless removed from office for fault. So nothing untoward there.

    Being a partner by 26 was not unheard of in those days (rearer now, but still not unique in smaller firms). Is it not possible that it shows how good he was? Yet the writer makes it sound like a sinister lie (when there is no reason lie at all – who cares when, or even if, he was a partner).

    This “article” is appalling.

    • STAG

      A colleagues daughter has been made partner at 24, smaller firm but cream rises.

      I am not sure I enjoy Stephens efforts, smack of sensationalism and superstition.

      • Sir Brucey

        I believe that hot shot lawyers dont become judges as they can earn far more in private practice. Also being a district court judge isnt very intellectually challenging.

    • I think you will find this story as it develops is appalling, and not in the way you think.

      • Zorro

        There’s a far worse case of judicial fraud being covered up. Google Shonagh Kenderdine.

  • Sir Brucey

    Ouch !!!!!!!!!!

  • Time For Accountability

    I have been in two or more telephone conferences with him and he introduced himself as judge Barbour.

    To say something else would be a lie.

    I was led to believe he was a high court judge.

  • Time For Accountability

    I recently accused Barber of gerrymandering his jurisdiction to rule out consideration of an agent trading as an individual whereas he actually conducted business as an unlicensed company.

    Not only that his trust account in the company name was unaudited.

    I think Barber operated in an Alice and wonderland environment without any understanding of the law he administered but with an arrogant self belief he is God. His arrogance about his “wide powers” was outstanding.

    He just relied on the REAA lawyer and obviously disliked self representation.

    I have seen judges like him before they are a cover for incompetence.

  • Time For Accountability

    The impression I have is that Barber is lead by the nose by the REAA and it is they who are incompetent or worse.

    In our case we exposed a complete breakdown of administering the licence and audit regime and I hold the belief that they attempted to cover it up along with the Tribunal.