Dame Elias, GNZM, QC is the New Zealand most senior member of the country's judiciary. She is the presiding judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. As Chief Justice, she also acts as the Administrator of the Government (acting Governor-General) when the position of Governor-General is vacant or if the Governor-General is overseas. She has held this position from 22 March 2001 until 4 April 2001, between the terms of Sir Michael Hardie Boys and Dame Silvia Cartwright, and again from 4 August 2006 until 23 August 2006 between Dame Silvia's term and that of the Hon Anand Satyanand, as well as when the Governor-General has been out of the country.
Dame Elias Born of an Armenian father and a Welsh mother, she gained a law degree from Auckland University in 1970, and then undertook further study at Stanford University. She took up employment with an Auckland law firm in 1972, beginning her career as a barrister three years later. She also served as a member of the Motor Sports Licensing Appeal Authority and of the Working Party on the Environment. She served as a Law Commissioner from 1984 to 1988. Dame Sian is also known for her work in relation to various Treaty-related cases. She was made a Queen's Counsel in 1988, and in 1990, she was awarded a commemorative medal in recognition of her services.
Dame Sian is married to Hugh Fletcher, former CEO of Fletcher Challenge and currently Chancellor of Auckland University.
Dame Sian became a judge of the High Court in 1995, and occasionally sat on the Court of Appeal.
On 17 May 1999, she was sworn in as Chief Justice of New Zealand, the first woman to hold that position in New Zealand. When the government announced plans for the establishment of a Supreme Court (replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final court of appeal in New Zealand), it was decided that Dame Sian, as Chief Justice, would automatically be appointed to the new body. The Supreme Court commenced sitting in the middle of 2004.