Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court
To welcome the Honourable Justice McEvoy
Transcript of proceedings
THE HONOURABLE JAMES ALLSOP AO, CHIEF JUSTICE
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE GREENWOOD
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE MIDDLETON AM
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE MURPHY
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE MORTIMER
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE BEACH
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE MOSHINSKY
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE O’CALLAGHAN
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE WHEELAHAN
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE O’BRYAN
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE SNADEN
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE McEVOY
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE HESPE
THE HONOURABLE MICHAEL BLACK AC QC
9.29 AM, THURSDAY, 23 JUNE 2022
ALLSOP CJ: Welcome to everyone for this ceremonial sitting of the Court to formally welcome Justice McEvoy. I first acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather, the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. Justice McEvoy, I particularly welcome your wife, Elizabeth, and your daughters, Alexandra and Emily, and your father, Raymond, and your many friends. May I acknowledge and welcome to the Court the Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency, the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, and Mr Howard AM QC, the Honourable Justice David Beach of the Court of Appeal and Marea Beach, the Honourable Michael Sifris and the Honourable Kristen Walker of the Court of Appeal and Justices Beale, Connock, O’Meara and Attiwill of the Supreme Court and the Honourable Kirsty Macmillan, former Judge of the Family Court of Australia.
And may I acknowledge the Solicitor-General of Victoria at the Bar table. Sitting on the bench with the Judges of the Victorian Registry and myself is Justice Greenwood, the senior Judge of Queensland. And my Chief Justice. May I particularly welcome the Honourable Michael Black AC QC who is with us today. Justice McEvoy, may I, on behalf of all the Judges of the Court around Australia, formally welcome you to the Court. You have already commenced, of course, and Covid-19 has delayed this welcome. You will find, I hope, it is both a busy but a collegiate court with a great variety of work and the Judges of the Court and I wish you a happy, fruitful and rewarding time on the Court serving the Australian people in the exercise of the judicial power of the Commonwealth.
THE HON M. DREYFUS QC: May it please the Court. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today, the peoples of the Kulin nation. I also pay my respect to their elders, past and present. I would like to extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples present today. It’s a great privilege to be here today to congratulate your Honour on your appointment as a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. I would like to thank you on behalf of the Australian Government for your willingness to serve as a Judge of this Court. The Government extends its best wishes for your career on the Bench.
Your Honour’s appointment to this Court is another success in a diverse and respectable career. It’s a testament to the high regard in which your colleagues hold you that so many of your colleagues in the legal profession are here today. May I particularly acknowledge Her Excellency, the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Ms Rowena Orr QC, Solicitor-General for Victoria, and the Honourable Michael Black with whom your Honour had the privilege of serving as an Associate. And I would acknowledge other current and former members of the judiciary and members of the legal profession. May I also acknowledge the presence of your family who proudly share this occasion with you.
While time won’t permit a full exposition of your Honour’s many accomplishments, it’s with great pleasure that I speak to a few of the fine qualities that have led to your appointment to this Court. Your Honour comes to this Court today with exceptional academic achievements. You were educated at Parade Christian Brothers College where you were awarded dux of the school in 1987. From school, you went to the University to study a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and a Bachelor of Arts, graduating in 1993. Immediately after your undergraduate studies, you took up the role of Associate to the Honourable Michael Black AC QC, then Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.
It’s a great testament to your abilities and dedication that you are now becoming a Judge of this same Court. Your Honour undertook articles of clerkship at Freehill Hollingdale & Page, now Herbert Smith Freehills, in 1995 and in 1996 you were admitted and remained a solicitor and senior associate at Freehills until 2002. While working as a solicitor you continued your academic pursuits, completing a Master of Laws at the University of Melbourne and a Doctor of Juridical Science from the University of Virginia in the United States. In 1998, you were appointed by the Attorney-General’s Department to the Australian Delegation of Experts to the Special Commission of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
Your Honour’s relationship with the University of Virginia was cemented early and, since 2001, you’ve been acting as a visiting Professor of Law teaching conflict of laws. Further, in 2011, you spent a prolonged period in Virginia with your family as both you and your wife, Libby, took up Fulbright scholarships at the same time. Your longstanding connection to the University of Virginia led you to being elected as a member of the American Law Institute in 2018. I’m told that only a handful of Australian Judges hold that honour and many of those are current or former members of the High Court. In 2002, your Honour was called to the Victorian Bar.
I’ve been told that you were universally liked and respected there, not only for your legal ability, academic rigor, cheery disposition and storytelling but also for your love of a good lunch. As a junior, you were sought after by silks due to the excellent quality of your writing and oral submissions which were always delivered with charm. At the Bar, you developed a general commercial practice primarily in the Federal and Supreme Courts. Your Honour took on a broad range of briefs, including contract law, trade practices, administrative law, professional negligence and defamation proceedings. Notably, your Honour acted as lead counsel for Domain in a misleading and deceptive conduct case bought by its rival, realestate.com.au. I’m told you excelled in that matter in what was a very tricky brief for the respondent.
Your Honour took silk in 2016. I understand that the matter that brought you the greatest satisfaction was acting as Senior Counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. I’ve been told that you felt the great privilege and responsibility of working on a matter of such value and importance to the community. This is indicative of your empathy, a quality that stands you in good stead for your time here on the Federal Court. More recently,
your Honour has been a Judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Division 1, formerly the Family Court of Australia, since 2019, and a Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal since 2020.
Your Honour is recognised as a leader in the legal field not only for your expertise but for your development of the profession through research, publications and teaching. I turn now to speak of a few of the personal qualities that I have no doubt will complement your appointment to this Court. Throughout your career, your Honour has been known for your commitment both as a mentor and friend. You are a naturally gifted mentor and have dedicated your time to no fewer than six readers and several associates since your appointment, including assisting their preparations for the Bar exam. I’m told that your Honour has a wide and loyal circle of friends, all of whom are very fond of you.
I’m told that there have been many occasions when you have instinctively stepped in to assist many of these friends during difficult times and that you are a wonderful person to have on a team. In tandem to your Honour’s knowledge of the legal system, I’m advised that you have a remarkable love of food and cooking. I’m told that you’ve been known on occasion to order more food than is strictly necessary for the number of people dining if the menu looks interesting. No doubt, this would be your Honour’s insatiable intellectual curiosity at play. I understand you have a love of history and also a love of matters of protocol. It therefore follows that you recently travelled to London to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee. Indeed, one of your colleagues has previously noted that the protocol and pageantry surrounding the monarchy no doubt underpins your love of the courtroom. Your Honour’s hobbies extend to bushwalking and skiing and you’ve surprised many colleagues with phone calls from the chair lift.
Before I conclude, I would like to give special mention to your family who are here today. Your Honour’s daughter, Emily, has asked that I mention today that you are the reason that she has decided to pursue a career in law herself. I have no doubt you are proud of her current studies at Monash University. Further, Emily has expressed that you are who she most wants to be when she grows up, a testament to your influence. Your appointment to this Court acknowledges your dedication to the law and accomplishments in the legal profession. Your Honour takes on this judicial office with the best wishes of the Australian legal profession, and it’s trust that you will approach this role with exceptional dedication to the law as you’ve shown throughout your career. On behalf of Australia and the Australian people, I extend to you my sincere congratulations and welcome you to the Federal Court. May it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Mr Attorney. Ms Annesley, President of the Victorian Bar and representing the Australian Bar Association.
MS R.N. ANNESLEY QC: Your Excellency, Chief Justice, Justices of the Court, Justice McEvoy, I appear on behalf of the Australian Bar Association and the Victorian Bar to congratulate your Honour on your appointment as a Judge of this Court. Dr Collins AM QC regrets that he is unable to attend this morning and sends his best wishes to you on your appointment. Your Honour’s appointment to this Court comes some three years after your appointment as a Judge of the Family Court of Australia and has been greeted with acclaim by the profession. The Family Court’s loss is this Court’s very great gain. Not only is your Honour an outstanding lawyer with a prodigious intellect and excellent judgment, but your Honour has been regarded as an efficient, courteous and hard-working Judge who has undertaken his judicial role with care, compassion and skill.
There has been some speculation as to why your Honour has moved to this Court. One theory is that you wanted to get the band back together and re-join your mentor, Justice Wheelahan, for old time’s sake. Another is that you wanted chambers on a higher floor with a better view. Perhaps the most credible theory, though, is that the DVD of your first welcome has worn out from the constant replaying of it by your Honour to your daughters in the vain hope that they would hold you in higher regard. Your brilliant academic career and early time has been outlined by the Attorney-General, so I will skip through to your practice at the Bar. In 2002, you were called to the Bar, reading with Michael Wheelahan, now your brother Judge of this Court. You took silk in November 2016. At the Bar your practice was wide and varied, taking in administrative law, competition and consumer law, equity and trusts, property disputes, environmental and planning law, probate, class actions, media law and defamation, disciplinary proceedings as well as crime and family law. Your Honour’s breadth of experience makes you well-suited for this Court.
You were very close to your mentor, so much so that he eventually had to suggest that you find your own room well after the end of your reading period. Accordingly, you secured a room on the same floor as Justice Wheelahan and developed a habit of bursting into his room in the style of Kramer from the legendary television show Seinfeld. Good humoured high jinks were part and parcel of your relationship with Wheelahan. Upon joining the Bar your Honour was keen to establish yourself as an intellectual commercial powerhouse. John Dever had other ideas. In keeping with the Dever motto “you need a barrister, do I have a barrister for you”, he sent you a brief to appear on an application for an adjournment in the Magistrates Court. So successful were you on that application that your practice in adjournment applications grew.
Soon after, a new textbook appeared on your Honour’s chambers at about eye-level to solicitors coming to consult you. It was purportedly part of the famous English series of textbooks known as the Common Law Library, and was entitled ‘McEvoy on Adjournments’. The Chief Justice might well be concerned as to what high jinks you and Justice Wheelahan might now get up to now that the band is back together. Your Honour became one of Justice Wheelahan’s preferred juniors, and through that and your background as a senior associate of Freehills, you had plenty of briefs in large matters for sophisticated clients. However, John Dever also ensured that you had plenty of briefs that consisted of shoeboxes filled with a random assortment of papers and clients who paid but occasionally. He says you were the man for the job because he could count on you to be as diligent and enthusiastic for the small client as for the big end of town, and you never lost your sense of humour.
While a Judge of the Family Court, you decided a number of important cases, including Tailor & Tailor,Keane & Keane, and Harlen & Hellyar. Each of these cases, like so many others before you in the Family Court, involved complex legal and factual issues where the stakes were high for the respective parties. Your Honour brought your analytical mind, excellent legal training, and a strong sense of justice and compassion to bear in your deliberations. A leading family law silk says that you treated counsel who appeared before you with great courtesy and consideration and that your Honour applied your considerable intellect to the issues that needed resolution, and your judgments were always sound. It is difficult to think of a better commentary on a Judge of any Court.
Your Honour has been described as perhaps the Bar’s leading gourmand. Gourmand is the word that was used. It is a French word and sounds very swish. The Economist Style Guide helpfully explains that “gourmet” means “epicure”, “gourmand” means “greedy guts”. Your Honour likes to dine, and your Honour does not like to dine alone. Readers were very convenient company at the wide variety of Melbourne restaurants that your Honour likes to frequent. Certainly, when your Honour started taking readers, Justice Wheelahan suggested that they would need a good laptop, and a gym membership. These requirements did not deter people from reading with you. You had six readers: Sandip Mukerjea, Gemma-Jane Cooper, Brian Mason, Marcus Fleming, Brooke Hutchins and Robert Forrester. It seems that life on the Bench has allowed your Honour to seamlessly combine your judicial role with your role as a gourmand.
When you were first appointed to the Family Court, you heard a case in Launceston. It was originally listed for three days, but in the way of these things, the matter extended over some 13 days across three months. This necessitated a culinary tour of Launceston with your Honour befriending the maître d’s of the finest restaurants the city has to offer. One of your former associates tells a story of when you were waiting in the judges’ corridor as a matter was briefly stood down. Your Honour occupied yourself not with legal thoughts but with a far more important matter, refining the menu of a gin tasting that you were giving for your readers. Your Honour commented then that if you weren’t in the law, you would have been a party planner as you are never as happy as when planning a party. Indeed, your Honour is a consummate party host. Any excuse, it seems, is an occasion for your Honour to throw a party: presidential inaugurations, fourth day of July, Royal weddings, all with appropriate bunting, and the most memorable, the Queen Mother’s funeral, complete with gin and Dubonnet.
Still, amongst all the congeniality, there is sometimes to be found a darker side to your Honour, something that counsel appearing in front of you may wish to bear in mind. Your Honour recently went on a hiking trip to Tasmania. This is not an activity within your Honour’s usual range of interests. As a result of a recent bout of COVID and perhaps other fitness reasons, you were not generally found at the front of the walking group. This group comprised some barrister colleagues. One barrister friend rather impertinently took it upon himself to comment on your Honour’s tardy progress on the first morning. When your Honour arrived at a lunch spot, this member of the Bar teased your Honour that the coffee cart had just left. He continued with tiresome jokes of this nature throughout the trip. Your Honour took these jests with your usual good nature, or so it seemed. At the end of the hike the jovial barrister found that a very large and very heavy rock had somehow secreted itself into his backpack.
Your Honour has been married to Libby for over 20 years, and together you have two beautiful daughters, Emily and Alexandra, of whom you are justifiably very proud. It’s fair to say that your Honour does not have a practical bone in your body, so it is just as well that you are married to Libby, who is the world’s most practical person. Legend has it that those who knew you and Libby before you were engaged were sure that it would be a successful match when on the way to skiing holiday it was discovered that you had a flat tyre. Faced with this daunting situation, for which you had no solution, your Honour gallantly allowed Libby to take over the task of changing the tyre, freeing up your Honour to do what you do best: observe and commentate. Things did not go so well when your Honour and Libby participated in sailing lessons one summer for the simple reason that, when sailing, one actually needs to do something rather than just commentate. Needless to say, when, through your Honour’s inaction, you tipped both you and Libby out of a boat, somewhat of an emergency arose. Being practical and in keeping with the first rule of safety, save oneself first, Libby did just that. Your Honour, unable to hoist yourself up into the boat, I’m told, had a very long swim back to shore.
Finally, in preparation for this speech, I had the opportunity to speak with many of your Honour’s many friends. This crowded courtroom today is a testament to that. In speaking with your friends, it became clear that on the friendship scale, your Honour is gold standard. You will do anything you can do for a friend, which speaks to your Honour’s character and generosity of spirit. Your Honour has already proven yourself as a capable, compassionate and considered Judge. You will undoubtedly make a substantial contribution to the work of this Court. On behalf of the Victorian Bar and the Bars of Australia, I wish your Honour long, satisfying, and distinguished service as a Judge of this Court. May it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Ms Annesley. Now, Ms Juliana Warner, who will address us remotely, from the Law Council of Australia and representing the Law Institute of Victoria. Ms Warner.
MS J. WARNER: May it please the Court. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the country on which we all meet and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. Normally, I’m on Gadigal or Cammeraygal land in Sydney, but today I’m on Larrakia land in Darwin. I pay my respects to elders, past, present and emerging, and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today. I would also like to acknowledge the Attorney-General, The Honourable Mark Dreyfus QC, Her Excellency, The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, The Honourable Michael Black AC QC, former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, and President of the Victorian Bar Association, Ms Annesley QC, all Judicial Officers, dignitaries, colleagues, friends and family. I must say your wife, Libby, sounds like a great girl, and most of all, your Honour.
It is an honour to be with you today, not only to welcome your Honour on behalf of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria, but I would like to personally have the opportunity to publicly celebrate your Honour’s appointment to this Court. Unfortunately the President of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute were unable to be with us today, and I know they wish that they could be, but they’re on planes heading for Darwin, and when they asked if I would be able to appear in their stead, I jumped at the chance. You see, I was lucky enough to work with your Honour during your time with Freehills. The detail of what we worked on together is now thankfully lost in the mists of time, but I do remember that it was ghastly, and I remember being down in the trenches with your Honour on a matter. I recall you being the bright young star from the Melbourne office of Freehills doing a stint in the Sydney office, and I recall your wit and humour being greatly appreciated by your companions in that trench.
However, I didn’t want to rely just on my memory and impressions for today’s speech, so my spies and I reached out to others who know you well. The approach for information was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. While I know that some of the people who were approached had many competing priorities at the time they were contacted, they fell over themselves sharing their insights regarding your Honour, and they made it an urgent priority, and unfortunately, most of those insights have already been referred to, so I have to skip them. But the determination to contribute perhaps more than the words or anecdotes they rushed to provide paints a clear picture of the esteem in which your peers hold you, all of whom want to be invited to your next party or dinner. I have enormous respect for your skills and attributes as well as the poise with which you always conduct yourself.
From early on in your career you conducted yourself in a manner and with wisdom that was beyond your years. Your career trajectory and achievements are no surprise to those who knew you when you were first starting out, and I can certainly attest to that. I must say that it is wonderful to see bright young stars go on to achieve their full potential, as your Honour most clearly has done. You’ve handled difficult situations with good humour, and you’re never lost for words. But particularly appreciated by your peers is your ability to defuse tense moments by reciting a story or ditty apt to the issue at hand, so I can tell that you are still a dab hand in the trenches.
You have tirelessly served the community throughout your career, and I must particularly note your time as Senior Counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety as a Judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and a Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. And I must say, also, you look like you haven’t changed at all. You’ve not aged one day, so I must say, you either have Dorian Gray-like features somewhere or must just be very [indistinct]. Your Honour, on behalf of the legal profession, congratulations.
The people of Australia will be privileged to be served by you in this new role. May it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Ms Warner. Justice McEvoy.
McEVOY J: Your Excellency, your Honours, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all so much for taking the time from your busy schedules to come today. You do me, but more importantly the Court, a great honour. I thank you in particular, Mr Attorney, Ms Annesley and Ms Warner, for your kind words, and I also thank those who had a hand in the composition of your remarks. The less flattering stories that have been told make the identities of the informants well apparent. They will keep. The generous ones have doubtless been embellished, but I suppose these are occasions for some embellishment.
The last time I listened to submissions from you, Mr Attorney, we were opposed to one another in a case in the VCAT about the deregistration of a bookmaker. I was being led by Mr Holdenson QC. Sitting here today, that seems like a long time ago. The last time I heard submissions from you, Ms Warner, they were probably to direct me to do some photocopying for that case you mentioned. It was actually a case in this Court brought by PetroTimor & Ors against the Commonwealth, concerning oil concessions in the Timor Sea. Happily, you had briefed with Mr Bathurst QC, leading Mr Gageler SC, leading Mr Stephen Lloyd. We were in safe hands, and the photocopying was of a very high quality.
I cannot say, Ms Annesley, that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing submissions from you before, other than perhaps in a social environment. However I recall that Justice Wheelahan, at his welcome, wondered whether serious injury applications under the Victorian Accident Compensation Act might attract Federal jurisdiction. I’m not sure where those ruminations have landed, but you’re always very welcome here.
I also acknowledge the presence at the Bar table today of the Solicitor-General for Victoria, Ms Rowena Orr QC, and Mr Jeremy Ruskin QC. I shared chambers with Jeremy for ten years prior to my appointment to the Family Court, and he is my grand master; or, to use slightly less Masonic and more modern language, my grand mentor.
It is, of course, an enormous honour to have been appointed to the Federal Court of Australia, and I repeat here the oath I took before the Chief Justice on 26 April this year to well and truly serve in the office of a Judge of this Court and to do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
As you have heard, I began my legal career in the Federal Court, fresh out of university, as the Associate to the then Chief Justice Black. What an introduction to legal practise that was. His Honour had been appointed Chief Justice only three years earlier, and he had already embarked on substantial reforms to the organisation, the jurisdiction and, indeed, the physical architecture of this Court.
His remarkable success in that project and the development of this Court is clear today. One’s daily interactions as a first-year lawyer were, of course, with him, but also with Justice John Lockhart, Justice Ian Sheppard, Justice Bill Gummow, Justice Peter Heerey, Justice Richard Cooper and others. Sir Maurice Byers was still appearing in the Full Court. It would, I think, have been impossible to have had a more fascinating and educative first year in the law, and I pay tribute today to the formative role of Chief Justice Black played in my legal education, and I’m deeply touched by his presence on the Bench today.
It would be remiss of me not to say something more about the late Justice Richard Cooper, another great friend and mentor of mine in my early days in the law, whom I wish very much were here today. As will be well-known to many, Justice Cooper died in office as a Judge of the Federal Court in March 2005 shortly before his 60th birthday. It was through friends of his in the maritime law world that I came to undertake post-graduate work at the University of Virginia in 1997, and he and his wife were with my wife and me in Charlottesville in the spring of 1999 when I defended my doctoral dissertation. Justice Cooper’s untimely death was a great loss to his family, his many friends and to Australia.
The other great absence today is, of course, the late Justice Richard Tracey who also died far too young in October 2019. Almost 30 years ago he was the first silk I encountered as a young associate. Richard was good enough to move my admission to practice two years later. I was a Master’s student of his, I would brief him often as a solicitor, and I appeared led by him and opposed to him as a young barrister prior to his appointment to this Court. I appeared in front of him as a Judge, and I was one of his Senior Counsel assisting, as you’ve heard, in the Aged Care Royal Commission. I know there are several Judges in the Court today who routinely ask themselves when confronted with particular problems, “What would Richard Tracey have done about this?” His role in my life was very significant and, like so many of us, I miss him more than I can say. I acknowledge the presence online of Richard’s wife, Hilary, who is prevented from attending today by reason of flu-like symptoms.
It is entirely uncontroversial to observe that Judges of this court, especially those I have mentioned, have set the highest standards. I will do my best to live up to these standards.
I have said it is a great honour to be appointed to this Court, and so it is. My acceptance of the appointment, however, should not be thought to indicate any ambivalence about the first three years of my judicial career. Although it may fairly be said that I did not appear frequently in the Family Court of Australia, I could not have enjoyed my time on that Court more, and it has been the highlight so far of my time in the law. The importance of that Court’s work cannot be overstated. It is the Court that many Australians – too many Australians – find themselves in or in the shadow of when they’re at their lowest ebb and embroiled in a relationship breakdown or other family dispute. As a result, it is often the Court that shapes the public’s perception of the law in Australia.
I acknowledge here and pay tribute to the extraordinary work that has been done in recent years by the Chief Justice, the Honourable William Alstergren, and the Deputy Chief Justice, the Honourable Robert McClelland, in the much-needed reforms to that Court and to the family law system in this country more generally, particularly in the area of family violence. I acknowledge also my colleagues in Melbourne not able to present by reason of the annual Judges meeting of that Court which is occurring in Sydney today. It has been a pleasure to serve with them and I have valued their friendship and support very greatly.
The Honourable Kirsty Macmillan SC, recently retired from the Court and no longer needing to attend judges meetings (mercifully) is here. My years as a Family Court Judge would have been very different without the support and many kindnesses of Justice Macmillan and Justice Jill Williams, and I thank them both publicly for that.
Before leaving the subject of the Family Court, I acknowledge the distinguished presence today of Her Excellency, the Governor of Victoria and Mr Tony Howard QC, and the perspicacity of the Governor’s advice to me at various times. To paraphrase Walter Bagehot’s famous dictum, Her Excellency has always been available for consultation, and she has encouraged and warned me when I needed both. I thank her for that.
One particular observation which I do not think she will mind me recounting is that it’s always best to leave the party when you’re having the most fun. That is not something I have been used to doing, but it is good advice. As well as my three years on the Family Court, I had 17 happy, fulfilling and generally fun-filled years at the Victorian Bar. Many of the defining friendships of my adult life were made at the Bar and it is a delight to see so many of my dear friends from the Bar present in court today. I mention two members of the Inner Bar specifically: Penny Neskovcin QC and Anthony Strahan QC. Penny and I did the readers course together and we have been great friends and confidantes ever since. Anthony read after me with Michael Wheelahan. I cannot imagine my time at the Bar without them both, and I thank them most sincerely for their companionship and wise counsel. On the subject of the rock and Mr Strahan, I say that any liability I have for that episode is accessorial at best.
On the occasion of my welcome to the Family Court, Justice Wheelahan received almost as much attention in the speeches as I did. That is unsurprising given the frequency with which we worked together and the friendship we developed. His Honour read these remarks prior to publication, and I record that I leave out an observation at this point. However, I would like to say that his Honour was an exceptional master just as he has become an exceptional Judge. I have learned more from him about the practice of the law than from anyone, and I owe him a debt of gratitude which I can never repay. I thank him and his wife Cathryn for being present today.
Of course, such is the nature of life at the Bar that, in time, I had my own readers; six in all, and one reader to whom I have been senior mentor. As you’ve heard, my readers were Sandip Mukerjea Gemma-Jane Cooper, Brian Mason, Marcus Fleming, Brooke Hutchins and Robert Forrester. I’ve been Joanna Dodds’ senior mentor, and I have tried to perform something of that role for my first associate, Luisa Frederico, who has recently joined the Victorian Bar. Save for Brooke Hutchins who is occupied in another jurisdiction, they are all here today.
All are in active and successful practise at the Bar, and I’m incredibly proud of each of them. They continue to be solicitous of my wellbeing. When I went on to the Family Court, my first reader, Sandip Mukerjea, presented me with a package containing what he categorised as a CLE. It was, in fact, a DVD of “Kramer vs. Kramer”, which came in handy. His latest suggested viewing is a DVD of “The Castle” which, as many of you will know, concerns the acquisition of property on other than just terms. Perhaps that will come in handy too.
As well as the opportunity to work with my readers, I’ve also had the pleasure of having many fine barristers as my juniors and appearing in front of me in recent years. Many of them are here today. I will not list them all but they know who they are and I thank them all. And, of course, I had the great privilege to be led over the years by many exceptional silks. As well as those I have already mentioned, it would be remiss of me not to mention the presence of Mr Jim Peters QC and his wife Sally today.
I wish to acknowledge also the Judges of the Supreme Court of Victoria who are here today. It has been a privilege to appear either with them as their junior or opposed to them or in front of them as judges, and they are exemplars for me of the judicial art. I mention, in particular, Justice David Beach of the Victorian Court of Appeal and Justice Stephen O’Meara with whom I shared chambers for many years. Justice Beach when a silk was the ideal leader. He and his wife, Marea, have been great friends to me and I thank them for their attendance today.
I remember very fondly my time as a solicitor at Freehills. I did articles, as has been mentioned, in the property section of the firm with Peter Mitchell, and I worked subsequently in litigation both in Melbourne and in Sydney with a series of talented solicitors, all of whom were very good to me. They were happy days.
I should say something briefly about my American life. I began post-graduate work in the Law School at the University of Virginia in 1997 under the watchful eye of Professor Paul Stephan, and I joined the visiting faculty of the Virginia Law School in January 2001. I’ve taught there almost every year since. Professor Stephan has had a great influence on my life, and he and his wife, Dr Pam Clarke, have become firm friends. I understand that they’re watching this sitting from Charlottesville. I should also acknowledge my many colleagues on the Faculty who have so warmly greeted my appointment to this Court. I mention, in particular, Professor Paul Mahoney and the Rt Honourable Sir Jack Beatson. I’ve enjoyed many happy times with all of them.
My time at Melbourne University, now almost 30 years ago, should not be overlooked. They were wonderful years of my life and many of my friends from that time are here today or watching online. They include Joshua Puls, William and Jennifer Irving, Dominie Banfield, the Honourable Mary Wooldridge, Michael Gronow QC, Robert Heath QC, Dinusha Joseph, Renato Marasco, Peter Talacko and Simon Thornton. I mention also my oldest friend, Alistair Wenn, who is here today and who continues to do his best to give me some exercise on our morning walks.
I was privileged to have had many outstanding teachers in the Melbourne Law School, including Professors Michael Crommelin and Cheryl Saunders for constitutional and administrative law, and a young Mark Moshinsky for private international law. I acknowledge the presence in Court today of both Justice Moshinsky and Professor Crommelin.
Let me turn, finally, to my family. I would not be here at all without their love and support. My father is here today. My mother, who could not countenance a second welcome, has not unreasonably chosen Paris in the summertime with my sister, Vanessa. My parents gave my sisters and me a happy family life and a good education, and they are model parents. We had three of our four grandparents and one great grandmother. Grandparents are very important, and mine were a tremendous influence on me. I wish they could have been here today also.
Then there are my own gorgeous girls: my wife, Libby, and our two daughters, Emily and Alexandra. Libby and I have been married for almost 22 years and we continue to have many adventures together. Life would be unrecognisable without her, and I thank her for her love and support of me and our daughters. Our immediate family would not function without her. Both of us would say that Emily and Ally are our most outstanding achievements. They have been the salt of our lives. We are so very proud of them and all that they do and we delight in seeing them blossom into confident and engaging young women. I am so thankful that you’re all here with me today and I love you more than I can say.
I would end by thanking the Chief Justice, the Judges, the Registrars and the staff of the Court for the very warm welcome I have been given. My Associates, Rebecca Brun and Janine van Eyk, also deserve special attention for their considerable forbearance in recent months. I am delighted to have joined the Court, and I look forward to many more years of service as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia.
ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Justice McEvoy. The Court will now adjourn.