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Welcome to Justice Robert Redlich

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Cite as: (2002) 76(11) LIJ, p.27

Recently appointed Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Robert Redlich was welcomed to the Supreme Court at a ceremony on 11 November 2002. Among the speakers was Law Institute president David Faram. An edited version of his speech appears below.

On behalf of the Law Institute and representing the solicitors of this state, it is my pleasure to welcome someone as qualified for a place on the Bench of this Court as your Honour.

You were educated at Melbourne High School and the University of Melbourne, and were extremely studious at law school. You spent the days in the Melbourne University law library writing summary notes and marking the paper with green, red and blue pens – before highlighters had even been invented.

You graduated bachelor of laws with honours in 1968 and were admitted to practice in 1969, signing the roll later that year.

“Crash-and-bash” and drink-driving cases were the staple of your practice at the Bar during those early years – even then, your Honour displayed a fierce competitive drive. You moved on from “crash and bash” cases to high profile work including as counsel assisting the board of inquiry into the Richmond City Council.

As we have heard, the commissioner was Chief Justice Nicholson. Timely submission of the report from that inquiry required a 30-hour “all-nighter”. Your Honour and the Commissioner got to know one another very well. Chief Justice Nicholson describes you as “one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with in the law”.

In 1982, you were appointed special prosecutor for the Commonwealth to investigate matters that arose from the ashes of the Costigan Royal Commission into the painters and dockers.

As we have heard, you were also Crown prosecutor in the police corruption trial of Paul William Higgins, a detective sergeant who used his position to run a corrupt protection racket.

The Cranbourne Golf Club is looking forward to seeing more of your Honour than has occurred in recent times. Our inquiries show that you last played at Cranbourne on 24 March this year – and that you played off 7. We have confirmed that you played a round on the King’s Golf Course at Gleneagles in Scotland. Each hole has an evocative and pithy Scots name. The 5th, “het girdle” (hot griddle), is a challenging par 3. The implication is that in the event that your future judgments may slip from time to time off the hot plate into the fire of the Court of Appeal, so may the imperfectly struck shot slip off this green.

When you are sitting through a long trial in the years to come, your mind might even wander back to the sylvan beauty of the 4th – aptly named “broomy law”, which refers not to new chambers available for sub-lease but to the broom brushes on the ridge along the right of the hole.

The 17th, “warslin’ lea” (wrestling valley), is a long, sweeping par 4 and can provide the most trouble with the narrowest fairway on the course. However, we are reliably informed that your Honour tackled the hole with the usual gusto – perhaps because the home hole and the dormy clubhouse were so clearly in sight.

In Great Britain, the Lord Chancellor is also responsible for the appointment of clergy in the Anglican Church. It was reported that the spouse of a Lord Chancellor once asked to see the list of candidates for such appointments and was surprised to find their credentials carefully noted against each name: “good left-hand bowler” or “right-hand bat”.

We are assured that your Honour’s written recommendation to the Bench did not include the following mention: “excellent off the tee but doesn’t like the heavy rough. Is sometimes out of bounds during cross-examination. Has read the green perfectly during career at the Bar”.

In terms of length of experience and depth at the Bar, you have been without peer. Every year as a top silk has only added to your reputation.

You have earned the reputation as the quintessential, fearless advocate in court. You have demonstrated an unfailing courtesy to solicitors. Your Honour has always been prepared to give it all for a client – even if it has meant upsetting the other end of the Bar table or a witness – if the interests of a client were best served.

You have been active as chairman of the Bar Council and leave behind a fine legacy of achievements, including the promotion of continuing legal education for young barristers. Your Honour also played a key role in drawing up the Bar’s constitution and its rules of conduct at the time the Legal Practice Act came into existence in 1996. You spoke out along with the Institute in the wake of Senator Heffernan’s attack on Justice Kirby earlier this year.

On these and other legal issues, you have demonstrated leadership and courage.

Your Honour’s elevation is regarded as a first-class appointment. Your fellow barristers are slightly dreading appearing before your Honour. Excellence will be expected from them at all times but they will always remember your generosity of spirit and fine intellect.

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