AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Civil and Commercial Litigation, Conflict of Laws, Public and Administrative Law

DIRECT DIAL
+64 4 260 5041

MOBILE
+64 27 753 4543

EMAIL
esther.watt@stoutstreet.co.nz

 

Esther is a commercial and public law litigator with broad experience. She advises regularly in the fields of public and administrative law, contract law, financial services, regulatory compliance and enforcement, and human rights.  Esther has appeared in complex commercial cases in the courts of New Zealand, the British Virgin Islands, the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Eastern Caribbean.

Esther started her career as a Judge’s Clerk to the Hon Justice Arnold in the Court of Appeal, before joining the Crown Law Office, where she worked in the criminal and human rights teams.  After completing her LLM at the University of Cambridge, Esther spent four years in the London office of a leading US litigation firm. During that time, she appeared as junior counsel in a number of high value commercial disputes, led by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former UK Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice, and Solicitor-General for England and Wales. Upon returning to New Zealand, Esther spent three years in the litigation team at Russell McVeagh, before commencing practice as a barrister at Stout Street Chambers in 2017.

Esther has a first class honours degree in law, and an arts degree majoring in psychology and philosophy from Victoria University, where she received a number of class rankings. In 2009 she was awarded a New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Fellowship and the Jessie Madison award to read for her LLM at the University of Cambridge.

QUALIFICATIONS AND CAREER
  • LLM (Hons), University of Cambridge
  • LLB (Hons), Victoria University of Wellington
  • BA (Psychology and Philosophy), Victoria University of Wellington
  • New Zealand Law Society Litigation Skills Course

Career

2017 – Present: Barrister, Stout Street Chambers

2014 – 2017: Senior Solicitor,  Russell McVeagh

2010 – 2014: Associate Attorney, Gibson Dunn LLP

2007 – 2009: Assistant Crown Counsel, Crown Law Office

2006 – 2007: Judge’s Clerk to Hon Justice Arnold, Court of Appeal

RECENT AND NOTABLE CASES
  • Acting for the Human Rights Commission as intervener in Supreme Court proceedings concerning the effect of a choice of law clause in an employment contract that breaches New Zealand’s anti-discrimination laws: Brown & Sycamore v New Zealand Basing Limited SC 145/2016 (2017).
  • Acting for a major bank on significant public law and regulatory issues, including potential litigation (2017).
  • Acting for a major electronics company in respect of a claim brought against it under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (2017).
  • Advising a major fisheries company on a services contract dispute (2017).
  • Appearing as junior counsel for Lecretia Seales on her application to the High Court for declarations that (i) assisted dying is not unlawful under the Crimes Act 1961, and (ii) in the alternative, to the extent that the Crimes Act prevents assisted dying for a person in her circumstances, it is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act 1990: Seales v Attorney-General [2015] 3 NZLR 556.
  • Acting for Ngati Whatua in judicial review proceedings brought to clarify the extent of its right of first refusal over surplus land held by the Government in Tamaki Makaurau (settled in 2015).
  • Appearing as junior counsel with Andrew Butler in his role as amicus curiae in Arthur William Taylor’s election petition challenging the lawfulness of the election in the Helensville electorate: Taylor v Key [2015] NZHC 722.
  • Appearing as junior counsel, led by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for UBS AG in its successful defence of a USD 21 million claim alleging breach of contract: (Sheikh Meshal Jarah Al Sabah v UBS AG, 27 August 2013, DIFC Courts, Judgment of Sir David Steel).
  • Acting pro bono for the Hillsborough Family Support Group. We advised the group on potential avenues for redress, including its successful bid to overturn the verdicts handed down at the original inquest into the deaths of the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster.
  • Acting for Chevron Corporation on its defence against attempts to enforce against it a USD $19 billion judgment issued in Ecuador.
  • Appearing (as junior counsel) for UBS AG (in the British Virgin Islands High Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal) in its successful defence of restitutionary claims, totalling USD 2 billion, brought by Fairfield Sentry, the largest feeder fund into Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities Ltd: Fairfield Sentry Limited (in liquidation) v Migani & Others [2014 UKPC 9].
  • Acting for a Dubai-based investment bank in enforcement proceedings brought by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (settled in 2012).
  • Appearing as junior counsel with the Solicitor-General in a high profile contempt of Court trial: Solicitor-General v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd HC Wellington CIV-2008-485-705, 10 October 2008.
  • Appearing (as junior counsel) for the New Zealand Parole Board in judicial review proceedings concerning its decision to release Mr McNamara: A v Parole Board & McNamara [2008] NZAR 703.