Jonathan Orpin-Dowell

Jonathan has wide experience as a commercial and public law litigator. He regularly accepts instructions in all areas of commercial law with a particular emphasis on insurance law, equity and trusts, restitution, and regulatory work. In the public law area, he has experience acting both for and against decision-makers in judicial review proceedings and regularly provides advice on matters of public and administrative law, as well as Treaty of Waitangi and Maori Law issues. He acts for both private sector and government clients.

Jonathan graduated from the University of Auckland in 2006 with undergraduate degrees in Law (Hons) and Arts (economics). In 2017, he completed a Masters in Legal Studies (First Class Honours), also at the University of Auckland, specialising in corporate and commercial law. 

After completing his undergraduate studies, Jonathan worked for two years as a judge’s clerk at the Court of Appeal for the Honourable Ellen France. That experience has been influential on his practice at the bar.

In 2009 Jonathan commenced practice as a barrister at Stout Street Chambers. Since then, he has appeared in all of the higher New Zealand courts, including the Supreme Court (as junior counsel) and the Court of Appeal (as both junior and lead counsel). He has also been appointed as amicus curiae (counsel assisting the court) in a number of proceedings in both the Court of Appeal and High Court.

Jonathan is currently a member of the New Zealand Law Society Law Reform Committee and the external subcommitee of the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee.

Qualifications and Career


  • Master of Legal Studies (First Class Honours), University of Auckland
  • Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Auckland
  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics, University of Auckland
  • New Zealand Law Society Litigation Skills Course

Academic awards

  • Senior Prize in Law
  • Gary Davis Memorial Prize for Advocacy
  • Geoffrey Powell Prize for Mooting
  • Winner of the International Manfred Lachs Space Law Mooting Competition
  • Winner of the International Client Counselling Competition
  • Winner of the Australian Law Students’ Association Mooting Competition
  • Winner of the Stout Shield Mooting Competition


  • 2009 – present: Barrister, Stout Street Chambers
  • 2007–2008: Judge’s Clerk to the Hon Justice Ellen France, Court of Appeal
  • 2008: Tutor in Property Law, Victoria University of Wellington
  • 2006: Editor-in-Chief, Auckland University Law Review
  • 2005: Tutor in International Trade Economics, University of Auckland

Recent and Notable Cases

Amicus curiae (counsel assisting the court) appointments

  • Anderson v R [2015] NZCA 518, [2016] 2 NZLR 321: Counsel assisting the Court in an appeal concerning whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to hear an appeal. The proposed appeal was against a decision of the High Court dimissing an appeal against the refusal to allow a criminal defendant leave (out of time) to elect trial by jury.
  • Lyttelton v R [2015] NZCA 279, [2016] 2 NZLR 21: Counsel assisting the Court in an appeal against orders made in advance of a criminal retrial by the High Court requiring media entities to remove online articles published about the first trial. The main issue on appeal was whether the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. The Court accepted my submission that the take down orders, made pursuant to the High Court’s inherent powers, were civil in nature and therefore there was jurisdiction for a civil appeal.
  • Carter v Coroner's Court at Wellington [2015] NZHC 1467, [2016] 2 NZLR 133: Counsel assisting the Court on an application concerning the discoverability of a legal opinion. The application raised the question whether only the Attorney-General can waive privilege held by the Crown. 
  • Sole counsel assisting the High Court in an application for judicial review of a decision by the police not to prosecute (ongoing, 2014)
  • Erwood v Ministry of Social Development [2010] NZCA 619: Sole counsel assisting the Court of Appeal in an appeal concerning an application for name suppression by a person found mentally unfit to stand trial for benefit fraud.

Equity and Trusts:

  • Advising trustees of a trust constituted under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 on the enforceability of a lease invalidly entered into (2014)
  • Advising the investors of a failed finance company regarding their ability to trace and claim deposits held in breach of a statutory trust (2012)
  • Junior counsel for trustees of a family trust seeking directions from the Court in relation to settlement of a series of related claims made against the trust and trustees (2012)
  • Dever v Knobloch (Hight Court, 2009): Junior counsel for the defendant trustees in a claim by discretionary beneficiaries challenging distributions made from the trust on the basis of an alleged conflict of interest and an alleged failure to act unanimously

Maritime cases: 

  • R v Henderson ([2014] NZCA 598, [2015] NZAR 251 and District Court, 2014): Lead counsel on appeal and junior counsel at trial for the accused in a successful defence of a charge under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 of causing unnecessary risk or danger following a berthing incident involving a passenger ferry. 
  • Svitzer Salvage BV v Z Energy Ltd [2013] NZHC 3541, [2014] 1 Lloyd’s Law Reports Plus 19: Junior counsel for Svitzer (the salvors of the Rena) in a successful opposition to an application by the defendants to strike out causes of action: (i) to annul or modify the terms of a charterparty under the International Convention on Salvage; and (ii) to set aside an inequitable agreement in the Court’s admiralty jurisdiction. This appears to be the first proceeding in which a claim to set aside a charterparty under the International Convention on Salvage was litigated in a domestic court.

Media law cases: 

  • A v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd (High Court, 2011): Counsel for “A” in a successful ex-parte application for an interim injunction restraining the media and bloggers from revealing the identity of “A” who had made allegations of sexual offending against a former Member of Parliament.

Public and Administrative Law cases: 

  • Ririnui v Landcorp Farming Limited [2016] NZSC 62: Junior counsel for Ngāti Whakahemo in successful judicial review proceedings challenging the decision by Landcorp to sell land subject to a Treaty of Waitangi claim to third party.
  • National Urban Maori Authority v Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Limited [2016] NZHC 1600: Junior counsel for the National Urban Maori Authority in successful judicial review proceedings challenging the basis on which directors of Te Putea Whakatupu Trustee Ltd (a corporate trustee set up to manage assets distributed under the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Settlement) were appointed. 
  • Lead counsel for the owners of a historic building in Wellington who successfully challenged the decision of the Wellington City Council to issue the building with an earthquake-prone building notice (2014)
  • Ellipse Institute Ltd v New Zealand Qualifications Authority [2012] NZHC 2083, [2012] NZAR 871: Junior counsel for NZQA successfully defending an application for judicial review of NZQA’s decision to deregister the plaintiff under the Education Act 1989.
  • Junior counsel for the Financial Markets Authority in relation to the application by Mr Allan Hubbard for judicial review of the decision to put him into statutory management
  • Community Bereavement Trust v New Zealand Qualifications Authority (High Court, 2011): Junior counsel for NZQA in a successful application by NZQA for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claim for damages for breach of statutory duty.
  • Marlborough Lines Ltd v Takeoers Panel (High Court, 2010): Junior counsel for the plaintiff in a successful application for judicial review of certain decisions of the Takeovers Panel following an unsuccessful takeover offer.
  • Saxmere Co Ltd v Wool Board Disestablishment Co Ltd (No 2) [2009] NZSC 122, [2010] 1 NZLR 76: Junior counsel for the respondent in a hearing where the appellant challenge a decision of the Court of Appeal on the basis of apparent bias.

Regulatory cases:

  • URS New Zealand Ltd v Auckland Regional Council [2013] NZHC 723: Junior counsel for Auckland Regional Council in an appeal against convictions under the Resource Management Act for discharging petrol into the environment.
  • Commerce Commission v Progressive Enterprises [2010] NZCA 374, (2010) 12 TCLR 736: Junior counsel for the Commerce Commission in a Fair Trading Act appeal concerning the elements of the offence of offering gifts and prizes with the intention of not providing them.


  • "Reviewing 'Unreasonable' Discretionary Decisions Made by Trustees" (2015) 21 NZBLQ 131
  • “Advising Mariners Following a Maritime Casualty – Some Recent Lessons (paper co-presented to the Maritime Law Conference, Taupo, May 2015)
  • “How to Identify Ultra Vires Decisions” (paper presented to the 10 Points in One Day Conference, Wellington, February 2015)
  • “Standard Fact Patterns” (paper co-presented to the NZLS Issues in Unjust Enrichment Intensive, July 2014)
  • New Zealand Law Style Guide (1st and 2nd eds, Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2009 and 2011) (co-author)
  • “Developing Policy that is Consistent with the Bill of Rights: Some Comments on the Electoral Reform Project” (paper presented to the Reviewing New Zealand’s Constitution Conference, Wellington, May 2011)
  • “Constitutional aftershocks” [2010] NZLJ 386 (co-author)
  • “Electoral finance regulation” [2009] NZLJ 367 (co-author)
  • “The Personal Property Securities Act 1999 and Trusts – When is an Interest Under a Trust a Security Interest” (2008) 14 NZBLQ 109