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Farewell Justice John Batt


Cite as: (2005) 79(7) LIJ, p. 31

Supreme Court of Victoria Justice John Batt was farewelled at a ceremony on 2 June 2005. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria immediate past president Chris Dale. An edited version of his speech follows.

In researching this speech there was resounding unanimity in the high regard with which your Honour was held. Attributes such as your personal integrity, inquiring mind, generosity and compassion were greatly lauded.

You are aptly described as “a perfect gentleman”, an “ornament to the legal profession”, someone who is level-headed, honourable, meticulous and thorough, but with a keen sense of humour.

Your Honour’s eye for grammatical errors and your desire to “set the record straight” is a hallmark of your professional career. In a case involving the Commissioner of Taxation your Honour noticed an error in the judgment. You then asked the instructing solicitor to alert the judge to his incorrect use of Latin.

The instructing solicitor was somewhat overawed by the task she faced as the offending phrase “circulus inextricabilus” was rather difficult to pronounce. Consequently, she suggested that perhaps your Honour might be best placed to “take the matter up personally with the judge”.

Solicitors acknowledge that your Honour was always courteous to both clients and instructing solicitors. They describe your Honour as “a very principled person and a true gentleman”.

Described by some sources as “a stickler for rules”, in the best possible way, it is understandable that your Honour devoted much time, effort and enthusiasm to the Rules Committee, where you served both as the Bar representative and as judge.

Your Honour was famous for your helpful memoranda pointing out particular flaws in the Rules which provided the Committee with a fresh agenda of work, something it always craved, even after your Honour retired from the Committee.

Your penchant for adhering to rules was witnessed when your children David and Carolyn were both admitted to practice. I am told that in accordance with your judicial obligations your Honour even went to the length of seeking special permission in order to be able to attend their celebratory drinks at their respective firms.

In another demonstration of your unwavering personal integrity, your Honour took great care to ensure that even after a case had finished, that your instructing solicitor was aware that you would be dining with opposing counsel.

It is a credit to your Honour that in researching this speech it was almost impossible to find any peccadillos. The only minor chink in your Honour’s armour is that you are “chromatically challenged” – or in less politically correct terms “colour blind”.

Apparently the consequence of your Honour’s affliction has on the odd occasion resulted in “some serious problems going through traffic lights”.

In one tax case, in which your Honour appeared, flow charts were used to assist the court with the complex factual scenario. This occurred at a time before coloured photocopiers and computer graphics and therefore the artwork had been painstakingly prepared by hand.

Much to the illustrator’s dismay when the charts were produced in Court it quickly became apparent that not only was your Honour colour blind but so was the presiding judge.

Your Honour’s reputation for well-reasoned, carefully researched judgments extends far and wide among legal circles. I am therefore not surprised that it is said that your Honour is “very highly” regarded by the High Court.

But a little known fact about your Honour’s judgments is that for every 10 pages you write, you manage to get through a “packet of jubes”. These sweet treats have been known to spur you well into the night and your wife Margaret has not only had to purchase wholesale quantities of jubes but has taken to measuring out a small supply and then hiding the rest in the cornflakes packet, or the saucepan cupboard. I’m told that often late at night, your Honour could be heard rustling around searching for the latest hiding spot.

Throughout your career you have always been extremely generous with your time, everything from assisting with your children’s homework, to the substantial contributions of time, energy and expertise you have devoted to the Anglican Church and to numerous other people who have called on you for assistance.

On behalf of Victoria’s solicitors, I thank you for the significant contribution you have made to this Court and I extend to you and your family every happiness for your retirement.

Secondary school: Melbourne Grammar
University: Melbourne University BA (Hons) LLB (Hons)
Articles of clerkship: Oswald Burt & Co
Signed Bar roll: 23 November 1961
Read with: Sir Ninian Stephen
Took silk: November 1977
Appointed to the Bench: 8 March 1994


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