Volume 8, Issue 2
One of the most interesting features of the furore surrounding Tim Carmody’s appointment to the position of Chief Justice of Queensland last year was the criticism levelled at various members of the Queensland judiciary, for their public expressions of scepticism at his authority and impartiality.
If various serious-minded commentaries in The Australian are to be believed (and why shouldn’t they be?), any spats between judges—no matter how important—should be hidden from public view, in the interests of maintaining faith in the judiciary.
Some examples from the history of the High Court in its Dixonian ‘golden age’ should put these contemporary disputes in perspective:
— During the 1930s, when the High Court justices spent a third of the year sitting in various state capitals, Evatt and McTiernan JJ travelled from Adelaide to Perth by sea to avoid Starke J, whom they hated. This isn’t to imply that Evatt and McTiernan were on good terms either—during the voyage, the former bullied the latter into giving him his cabin, because it had a bath.
— Justice Powers’ reputation was so dismal that some mean-spirited lawyers liked to joke that certain matters were ultra vires—‘beyond Powers’.
— After a speech by Sir George Rich, in which he propounded the benefits of employment, Dixon J wrote to his daughter that ‘the idea of Sir George preaching the doctrine of work struck Mum as particularly amusing’. This was harsh but probably fair: Dixon has been accused of ghost-writing many of Rich’s judgments.
Hamish Williamson is the 2015 Chief Editor of De Minimis and a second-year JD student