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Farewell Judge Barton Stott

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Cite as: (2006) 80(12) LIJ, p. 34


Judge Barton Stott was farewelled from the County Court of Victoria on 19 October. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria Council member Bill O’Shea. An edited version of his prepared speech appears below.

I appear on the occasion of your retire-ment from this Court to recognise your Honour’s life of service. I do so on behalf of the Law Institute and the solicitors of Victoria.

For almost two decades your Honour has applied very high standards to the task of adjudication in this Court and you will be particularly remembered for your unending patience and special ability to relate to juries.

It was noted when you were first appointed to this Court that your career at the Bar saw you in many types of jury cases, where you no doubt honed these skills.

You came to this Bench after a distinguished career at the Bar, mainly in the field of common law as counsel for plaintiffs and defendants, where you were known not only for your presence but for your “magnificent intonation” of voice.

You completed the majority of your law course at the end of 1960, and completed the final subject in 1961 while working
as a clerk with Messrs Hedderwicks Fookes & Alston.

After you were admitted to practice in 1963 you spent just a short time with Hedderwicks before you were appointed a partner of the firm in 1966.

Your Honour signed the Bar roll in 1967 and quickly built up a good practice. You spent many years at the busy Ballarat circuit before you took silk in 1983.

The challenges facing this Court have, of course, changed significantly since you were welcomed to the Bench in December 1989.

As a solicitor, barrister and judge, sailing has been an abiding love of your Honour’s. You were an excellent rower at school and you did national service in the Navy and formally joined the Navy in 1955.

Retirement of course means you are again free to run away to sea. Perhaps you will now also have more time to turn to the works of Joseph Conrad, whose novels and short stories will remind you of the mysterious power the sea can exert on men like that young naval recruit you once were.

In fact, I wonder if Conrad might resonate with you even more after almost 40 years in the law, where you have listened to a multitude of counsel contending.

Perhaps, like Conrad describing the art of the novelist, you might now think that the work of a judge “may be compared to rescue work carried out in the darkness against cross gusts of wind”.

Certainly at your welcome to this Court nearly 17 years ago, having listened to the legal profession’s profuse praise, you sounded a cautionary note.

You contrasted the warm words spoken about you by my predecessor that day with Peter O’Callaghan’s view that “All judges are bastards – the good just take longer ... ”.

You also said on that occasion that as a judge you would try to keep four things in mind: “a level head, an open mind, a sharp eye and a still tongue”.

Your Honour, on this the occasion of your retirement, Victoria’s solicitors have loosened their tongues to thank you for your contribution to the law and to the administration of justice in this community.

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