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Welcome Master Simon Gardiner

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Cite as: (2009) 83(02) LIJ, p.27

Master Simon Gardiner was welcomed as a master of the Supreme Court* on 13 November 2008.

Among the speakers was then president Tony Burke. This is an edited version of his speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state to congratulate you on your appointment to this Court.

We go back some way. We grew up in the same area. Your father was a local GP. My father was a local solicitor. They knew one another. Both had large families. We travelled together to St Kevin’s College.

Even as a schoolboy, you had an eye for sartorial elegance – hence your nickname, “Rags”.

Your classmates’ idea of Saturday fun was the football. Yours was reportedly window shopping at Henry Buck’s – and the Henry Buck’s sales.

On the subject of clothes, I understand there have been several inquiries as to the fate of that dazzling orange shirt you wore on dress-down days on the 13th floor of Owen Dixon West. Let’s hope that in the interest of justice you won’t be wearing it as a master.

Following graduation you were articled to the late Tom Hanrahan at Ellison Hewison & Whitehead.

In the two and a half years you were with Ellisons, you did most of your work with Robert Strong in company and commercial matters and with Frank Shelton in building and arbitration matters. Robert is now at the Bar, Judge Shelton is on the County Court.

The barristers’ chambers in Four Courts were quite something – not only for the corridor cricket and football – but because the partitions between rooms were paper thin. Not only could you hear the boisterous cries from the game, it was impossible not to hear pretty well every word of conferences in adjacent chambers.

You’d see your client off and then you’d barely sat down before those from adjoining chambers dropped in to share their views about the quality of the advice you had just given.

One might have thought you’d have remembered this Four Courts experience in relation to voices through partitions before agreeing to take the other half of George Beaumont’s chambers when he downsized.

Partitions are only partitions – and Beaumont QC is not the most soft-spoken of counsel at the best of times.

His response to a telephone-survey call from the Subcontinent was apparently ear-splitting and legendary.

Those of a certain age will remember the senior stipendiary magistrate at Sandringham, a Mr Wallace. Even his friends would surely agree that his Worship could be quite difficult.

You appeared before Mr Wallace in a case involving plastic bags. You had prepared with your usual thoroughness but on this occasion your style availed you not at all.

Your opponent was one of the more theatrical members of the Bar, and was in full flight. His Worship was at his most difficult. Against all the evidence, the decision went against you.

Afterwards, outside court your client, barely less theatrical than your opponent, strode up to your opponent, shook him vigorously by the hand and declared: “Excuse me, sir, but I’d like to shake the hand of a real barrister”.

You knew it was time to move on from the magistrates’ courts. Commercial and insolvency law in other courts began to look good. Also, the technical detail involved in bankruptcy and insolvency law mitigates against theatrical excess, and certainly against such excess being rewarded.

As we’ve heard, you established and developed your practice in those areas.

Your aversion to noise manifested itself after your move to the 13th floor of Owen Dixon West in a sign that read: “In conference. Do not disturb”.

In due course, you overcame your natural thrift and took a window room, still on the 13th floor of West. A feature of that room was a very large three-seater green couch – just long enough to accommodate a man of moderate height such as yourself, at full stretch.

It did not escape notice that the “In conference” sign appeared when the noise level rose – particularly in the mid-to-late afternoon – even though no-one had been observed going into your room.

You were happy with that room, although never entirely comfortable with its number: 1313. Clients might have shrugged off their barrister being on the 13th floor – but many found Room 13 on the 13th floor too much.

What might litigants now think, if they know that the master before whom they appear is the barrister from Room 13 on the 13th floor, whose judicial welcome was on the 13th of November?

At least it is Thursday the 13th.

Master, your instructing solicitors over 25 years have appreciated your thorough attention to detail and your unfailing courtesy. Our clients have been well served, as now will be this Court and the administration of justice.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish you long, satisfying and distinguished service as a member of this Court.

* As of 17 December 2008, masters are known as associate judges.

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