(Robert) Grant Hammond, judge; b May 14, 1944, Waipawa; 3d, 1s; d May 31, 2019, at Waikanae, aged 75.
The prisoner waited – and listened – in his cell while the jury considered his fate on a robbery charge.
In his chambers above the cells, Justice Grant Hammond waited too and played a recording of an Elgar cello concerto while he worked.
After a while, a note reached him from the young man in the cells. “That’s not the best version of that concerto,” the prisoner wrote.
Before being pulled into a gang and committing the robbery, the prisoner played the viola.
It gave Hammond great pleasure to learn later that the young man was able to return to music after prison, and played with an Australian orchestra. Hammond tried to have a positive attitude about people, as a lawyer, law lecturer, judge of the High Court and Court of Appeal, and top adviser on law reform.
Music was one of his great loves. It may have contributed to hearing loss because he liked to play rock’n’roll, classical, jazz, and country and western far too loud.
Or perhaps it was the cowbells he would clatter when his beloved Waikato rugby team was playing. Whether he was at a game or watching on television, Hammond’s bells always rang out.
He died recently aged 75, still a judge on the Court of Appeal of Samoa, a job he loved. Court dress was sandals, a lavalava, white shirt and black tie, topped with a judicial robe.
After his death, his family contacted the audiology company his top-end hearing aids came from to find out if they could be reused. They could. It would have pleased him much to know the company reconditioned hearing aids to send to Samoa.
Hammond was a man of many passions. The law was at his core, but close behind came hokey pokey icecream (served to mourners after his funeral), rugby, music, and fly fishing. He tied his own flies and favoured the “Mrs Simpson”, named after the woman who had caught a king.
He also loved his dogs. The last was Ben, a west highland terrier. Both dog and master were advised to lose a little weight and get some exercise so they would go out on walks. Their motives were not in doubt until it was discovered the usual route included the local diary, where each would have a pie or a hokey pokey icecream.
Hammond’s early years were spent on a dairy farm in Waikato, where he went to Te Awamutu College, became head boy and played rugby and cricket at a senior level, and performed in school musicals.
At a formative time he was an American Field Scholar and went to Illinois, in the United States. He played American football, and joined a large group of scholars who met President John F Kennedy at the White House in what turned out to be the last months of Kennedy’s life.
His American adventure made an impact and led to life-long friendships with his American “mom and dad”. He continued to wear the football helmet when he was riding his BSA motorbike back in New Zealand.
He had success early, with partnerships in New Zealand law firms, but was drawn back to Illinois to study and then on to Canada to teach. By 1986 he headed Alberta’s law reform commission.
When he returned to New Zealand about two years later, he began teaching commercial law at Auckland University, and soon after was made Dean of Law. After about two years he was made a High Court judge based in Hamilton and Wellington.