Background to the change in title to King’s Counsel and the King's Judges

The New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture has received queries about the change in title from Queen’s Counsel to King’s Counsel and the change in reference to “the King’s Judge(s)”.

The monarch ascends the throne immediately on the death of the previous monarch. There is no interregnum or waiting period.  While the appointment to Silk is made under letters patent which are personal to the monarch, section 119B of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 provides that if the Sovereign for the time being is a King, all references to Queen’s Counsel are to be read as King’s Counsel. Any lawyer who holds the rank of Queen’s Counsel, if he or she wishes, can refer to themselves as King’s Counsel and KC.[1] Accordingly, if a QC wishes to use a title with the rank, then “King’s Counsel” must be used, now that the sovereign is a King.

Accordingly, the Bar Association will be moving to adopt reference to King’s Counsel or KC.


A Senior Court judge is appointed “…by the Governor-General in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty.”[2] Under section 5 of the Constitution Act 1986, on the demise of the Sovereign all their functions, duties, powers, authorities, rights, privileges, and dignities are transferred to the successor and every reference to the Sovereign will be read as a reference to the Sovereign’s heirs and successors.[3]

The Chief Justice of New Zealand | Te Tumu Whakawā o Aotearoa has issued a statement that with effect from 9 September 2022, for the purposes of the courts:

  • Queen’s Counsel becomes King’s Counsel
  • Criminal cases become “The King v X”
  • Senior Court announcements change to refer to “the King’s Judge(s)”.

Read the Chief Justice's statement.

Read the Bar Association's statement on the death of the Monarch.

[1] Section 119B(1)(b) Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006

[2] Section 100 Senior Courts Act 2016

[3] Section 5(2) Constitution Act 1986

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