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Christopher Finlayson was born and educated in Wellington. After graduating with a BA in Latin and a LLM from Victoria University, he practiced law in Wellington as a solicitor before going to the Bar in 2002. He was elected to Parliament in 2005 and became Attorney-General and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations in 2008. Mr Finlayson held those positions until October 2017. During his Ministerial career he also held a number of other portfolios. He was chair of the Privileges Committee of Parliament from 2011-2017.
Mr Finlayson retired from Parliament on 30 January 2019 to return to the Bar.
In the course of his career, Mr Finlayson has served on a number of professional bodies including:
- The New Zealand Council for Legal Education;
- The Rules Committee of the High Court;
- The New Zealand Council of Law Reporting;
- A number of New Zealand Law Society Committees.
Outside of law Mr Finlayson has had extensive involvement in arts and culture. He previously served as chair of the Arts Board of Creative New Zealand and was a trustee of a number of arts organisations before he entered Parliament. Since leaving Parliament he has become a trustee of Chamber Music New Zealand, The Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust, The School of Dance Foundation and the Adam Foundation.
Mr Finlayson is a foundation author of McGechan on Procedure, the leading text on the practice and procedure of the Senior Courts of New Zealand. In 2018 he received a grant from the New Zealand Law Foundation to complete a book on the Crown Māori relationship, and he is also in the initial stages of writing a book on the Office of the Attorney-General.
In the course of his career Mr Finlayson has appeared in all the courts of New Zealand in public and commercial law cases. Examples of commercial cases are cases involving the Commerce Act, copyright, contract interpretation and many others. Prior to entering Parliament in 2005 his last case involved acting for the Sisters of Mercy in an historic abuse case where he was successful in both the High Court and Court of Appeal.
In 2013 he represented New Zealand in the International Court of Justice in a case where Australia sued Japan seeking to stop commercial whaling in the Southern Oceans. New Zealand intervened and Mr Finlayson led the case for New Zealand.