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Welcome Justice Jennifer Davies


Cite as: (2009) 83(06) LIJ, p.24

Justice Jennifer Davies was welcomed to the Victorian Supreme Court on 7 April. Among the speakers was LIV president-elect Steven Stevens.

This is an edited version of his speech.

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

Your Honour was articled to Del Bobeff at Paveys. Paveys was in the happy situation of being selective in those it accepted for articles or engaged as employees. Your Honour was recruited to a firm with a strong team of talented people willing to work hard and who produced high quality work.

Your Honour was all that.

Your Honour is remembered at Paveys, not only for the quality of your work, but because you were always pleasant to people – to your fellow clerks and employee solicitors, to the support staff, to clients and to the partners.

Your Honour is universally regarded among your instructors as one with whom it was easy to work – a genuine team-player who always treated your instructors with much grace.

With the extraordinary increase in the complexity of litigation and the mountains of documents seen now as “relevant”, even “necessary”, has come the establishment of “war rooms” for major cases.

Solicitors may have found the old rule that counsel could confer only in chambers as occasionally less-than-convenient.

However, the new age of relaxed rules, and “war rooms”, has meant that solicitors in such major cases spend, literally, days locked up with counsel in the “war room”.

This situation is more easily bearable with counsel who are a pleasure to work with, as your Honour was.

This is not to say that your Honour was not beginning to develop the “eccentricities” solicitors bear, with mostly good humour, from leading counsel.

My informant would not embarrass your Honour with anything specifically identifiable to your Honour, but gave the following illustrative hypotheticals:

  • the telephone call at about 6.30 in the evening – “I’m sorry to trouble you this late, but I seem to have left all my papers in court, and I really need to work on them tonight”; and
  • the call shortly before court for copies of “just a few extra cases” – “oh, and we’ll need 15 copies of each”.

Copying cases at short notice is challenging – indeed, character-building, when they’re not used. However, getting access to a courtroom in the evening is a minor miracle.

Levels of fees are always a sensitive subject. Suffice it to say that, according to usually reliable sources, one substantial increase in your Honour’s fees followed your learning, on the day one of your readers began with you, that you both had the same standard hourly and daily rate.

Of more interesting origin is your Honour’s care to eliminate the bolding of quotations in submissions.

In the High Court, your leader was reading a quotation from a submission that your Honour had written. One of the judges, visibly irritated, is reported to have exclaimed: “Not only is this in your submission – in case we might miss it, it’s bolded. There are limits. This is not like you, Mr Bloom!”.

For years, your Honour’s car of choice was a 4-wheel drive Subaru, or 4-wheel drive Nissan Patrol – cross-country skiers’ cars.

Imagine the surprise when, last year, you bought a red Alfa Romeo Brera. An Alfa advertisement says this: “It is the quintessential Italian sports car . . . a car for connoisseurs and cognoscenti. The Brera stirs emotions of unadulterated pleasure”.

Speculation is rife as to your Honour’s choice of a court car. Will your Honour emulate the environmental virtue of another judge, who chose the hybrid Toyota Prius?

Something your Honour’s father said at the dinner to celebrate your taking silk rings true with your instructors – that, although tax work is demanding and stressful, one of the nice things about it is your colleagues.

Your Honour was a good colleague. One instructor identified four characteristics in particular: extraordinary industry; timely follow-ups with your instructor in relation to approaching due dates; consideration of your instructor having been up all night preparing materials; and (most importantly) laughing at your instructor’s jokes.

In your Honour’s time as a solicitor, you lectured on tax issues throughout the eastern states for the Australian Society of Accountants, and wrote papers for the ASA on current developments.

Other contributions to legal education, as counsel, have been through lecturing at Melbourne and Monash Universities and for the Taxation Institute of Australia. And your Honour has served on the Law Council of Australia Taxation Committee.

Your Honour has an outstanding record of practice as a solicitor, as counsel and as senior counsel. You have an outstanding record of service in the fields of ethics and of legal education.

As well as your exceptional abilities, the one thing which came through universally in comments given to us in preparing this welcome was the pleasant nature you have always exhibited in your dealings with instructors, counsel and assistants.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour much joy in your appointment to this Court – and long, satisfying and distinguished service.


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