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Welcome Justice Lex Lasry

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Cite as: (2007) 81(12) LIJ, p. 38


Justice Lex Lasry was welcomed to the Supreme Court of Victoria at a ceremony on 31 October. Among the speakers was LIV president Geoff Provis. This is an edited version of his speech.

Your Honour has been an outstanding criminal lawyer and an outstanding leader of the Criminal Law Bar. Your many instructing solicitors will miss you. Their loss is the great gain of the Court and the community.

You are not the first Haileybury College lawyer to be appointed to the Court. Sir Wilfred Fullagar served on this Court for nearly 15 years before his appointment to the High Court.

Fellow students at Monash remember your passion for racing cars and your student digs, named “Blackacre”, and your co-tenant who assembled an Austin 7 in his bedroom.

The component parts all fitted in through the door, but youthful enthusiasm blinded your co-tenant to the difficulty of getting the assembled car out.

Even then, your Honour had a serious outlook. As the head tenant and chief spoilsport, you would not countenance the obvious solution of partially dismantling the wall.

Another classmate, now a partner in a prominent criminal defence firm, vividly recalls your passion, even as a student, for human rights and social justice.

You served articles with Jim Hill at Slater & Gordon – just a couple of years after Judge Roy Punshon. Justice Vincent of the Court of Appeal had also served his articles with Jim Hill.

Slater & Gordon was founded in 1935 to meet the needs of unions and their members. Jim Hill as solicitor and his brother Ted as counsel were two leaders in the workers’ compensation jurisdiction.

After admission in April 1973, you worked as a solicitor with your late father, Ian Joseph Lasry. By then he had moved in from Healesville and was practising in Brighton.

You came to the Bar in September 1973 and read with David Bennett, whose practice was more of a civil, commercial and defamation bent.

Your Honour is best known in the media today as a defence advocate, and for your principled stand against capital punishment.

However, you have also done prosecution work, briefed by the Victorian and Commonwealth Offices of Public Prosecutions.

Your Honour was a formidable prosecutor – and scrupulously fair and honest.

You were so accomplished as a prosecutor that, early in your career, you were not offered defence briefs.

A leading defence solicitor has explained that it’s not that you weren’t thought of for the defence. He recognised your ability very early, and sought to brief you – but you were never available.

The Van Nguyen case came into the public spotlight really only at the very end. It’s not widely known that you and your junior, Julian McMahon, had been engaged in that case for about three years – the equivalent of many months’ full-time work over the course of that time – all without fee.

Van Nguyen’s mother had come to Australia as a refugee with two babies. She had little money. There was never any thought of payment.

Certainly, the Australian government paid most of the travel and accommodation on the 17 trips your Honour took to Singapore.

But you and Julian contributed many, many months of work – an act of extraordinary generosity, compassion and commitment on the part of two individual barristers in private practice.

Mr Riordan has described your Honour’s years of service as a foundation member of the Criminal Bar Association of Victoria and former chair.

On the world stage you worked actively for the establishment and development of the International Criminal Bar (ICB). The ICB was established in 2002 to be the third pillar of the International Criminal Court – an independent defence Bar.

Your contributions and energy were recognised in your election as one of 21 members of the ICB Governing Council.

And the ICB wholeheartedly supported the Victorian Bar nomination of your Honour for the Law Council of Australia Inaugural President’s Medal, awarded to you earlier this year.

Most people here today know that you delivered the 2006 Law Week Oration at the University of Melbourne, “Defending unpopular causes in a climate of fear”.

Your Honour is part of what might be described as a family tradition of service.

Your father was a solicitor in Healesville, then in Brighton. He was admitted in 1941 and Ian Lasry & Co operated until 1986.

Your mother, Nancy, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2006 Australia Day Honours, and I quote, “for service to the community, particularly people living with cancer and their families through a range of support programs”.

Your Honour is a devoted husband, father and grandfather, who has given outstanding service in the law, and in support of the rule of law, and of human rights.

Your Honour now begins another chapter of what will surely be further distinguished service.

On behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour long and very satisfying service as a judge of this Court.

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