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Welcome Justice Iain Ross


Cite as: Jan/Feb 2010 84(1/2) LIJ, p.28

Justice Iain Ross was welcomed to the Victorian Supreme Court on 23 November 2009. Among the speakers was then LIV vice-president Caroline Counsel. This is an edited version of her speech.

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

After your resignation from the Industrial Relations Commission, your Honour settled into private practice as a solicitor at Corrs where you headed the Government Industry Division.

However, your Honour never fully embraced the sartorial conventions of a major city law firm.

You were not uncommonly seen in shorts and t-shirt at your desk, having come, you said, straight from the RACV Club gym.

Although a regular at the gym, it has been said of your Honour that “as an athlete, you were a very good lawyer”.

Your commissions as a judge of the County Court and vice-president of VCAT did not turn your head.

Your Honour was seen as the “Clark Kent” of VCAT – your chambers were a revolving change room – or telephone box equivalent.

At your welcome to the County Court, in thanking your former partners and colleagues at Corrs, your Honour said: “I’m not sure that I ever adjusted to the need to divide my day into six-minute increments, but thank you for trying”.

Your Honour may not have been temperamentally suited to six-minute increments, but you act swiftly and decisively – you follow through and inspire others.

At VCAT, your Honour headed the Civil Division and, within that Division, the Legal Practice List.

You are quick to point out that the “blitzes” in the Civil Claims List were the idea of Deputy President Steele. But your Honour supported them and ensured that resources were available.

Bold over-listing filled every available space with parties. About 20 members and mediators were involved. There were roving mediators picking up waiting parties and working with them. More than 1000 cases were cleared in eight days.

So it was with the DVD and booklet, Taking It to VCAT – a substantial initiative to educate and inform the public about VCAT proceedings in residential tenancies, owners corporations disputes and fair trading.

Your Honour has also taken pains to work with the profession. Your article “Early response essential” was published in the June 2009 LIJ. It drew practitioners’ attention to the number of cases in the Legal Practice List in which practitioners had failed to respond to Legal Services Commissioner requests for an explanation of professional conduct following complaints. The article also explained the principles in relation to penalties imposed in the Legal Practice List.

Your article “A centre of excellence in ADR” in the September 2009 LIJ reported on VCAT’s enhanced capabilities in ADR.

VCAT, like the Bar and LIV, is a recognised mediator accreditation body under the new national scheme. The President, Justice Bell, appointed your Honour as the ADR judge for VCAT.

You worked with the principal mediator to “refresh” the VCAT panel of mediators – participating in the interview process to appoint new mediators. You instituted and regularised processes of mentoring and monitoring of panel mediators. There has been a five-day course in mediation and numbers of VCAT mediators nationally accredited. Innovations introduced included a cooling-off period for mediated settlements where one party is unrepresented.

Your Honour has worked to improve induction of new members into VCAT.

The substantial load you took on at VCAT, freed the president, Justice Bell, for the substantial current review of VCAT.

Your Honour also determined major cases in VCAT.

For years, you have played an active part in law reform. In 1992, you were a consultant to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Collective Investments Review. From 1998 to 2001, you were a part-time commissioner of the NSW Law Reform Commission.

Since 2003, you have been a part-time commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. And you served as acting chair of the VLRC in between Justice Neave’s appointment to the Court of Appeal and Professor Rees taking up his appointment.

One little-known talent of your Honour is that of master baker and ferocious competitor at country shows.

One year you had entered every category but one – and then saw that your nemesis from the Country Women’s Association who had beaten you before had entered only that one category.

Eager to cross swords with such a worthy opponent, your Honour hurried home to bake for that last category – only to be edged out again by your CWA opposition.

Your Honour’s contributions to VCAT and to the County Court have been outstanding.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour continued success, and long and satisfying service as a judge of this Court.


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