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Welcome Justice David Beach

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Justice David Beach was welcomed to the Supreme Court at a ceremony on 9 September. Among the speakers was LIV president Tony Burke. This is an edited version of his speech.

Those who have had the privilege of instructing you over the years congratulate you most sincerely on your appointment – and say, with equal sincerity, how much they will miss you.

You were always the consummate professional – timely in your advice and
pleadings, always with great attention to detail
and always prepared to make a call on what, in your opinion, the client should do.

No solicitor ever complained that your advice merely marshalled the arguments. There was none of the, “on the one hand X but on the other hand Y” musing. Rather, you always provided real guidance as to what the solicitor and client should do.

Instructing solicitor after instructing solicitor marvelled at the speed with which you routinely turned around even the most complex advice – usually in a day or so.

You were always prepared, very thorough, a lateral thinker, and a delight to work with. For that, and for your impact on both clients and juries, from the very first brief instructors wanted you again.

Peter O’Bryan, with whom you served articles, headed the common law department at Galbally & O’Bryan. This department on the ground floor consisted, for the most part, of Peter O’Bryan, two employee solicitors and one articled clerk. You moved from being the one articled clerk to being one of the two employee solicitors.

Typically there would be about 1000 personal injuries claims in progress at any one time.

In your two and a half years with the firm, you established a system of standard forms and procedures for personal injuries actions – from letters of demand, and letters to investigating police and treating doctors to statements of claim and interrogatories.

Peter O’Bryan recounts that the system you set up continued in operation at least until his retirement about eight years ago.

You had your first County Court civil jury case from Abbot Stillman & Wilson less than a year after signing the Bar Roll.

On the morning the trial was to begin your instructors had briefed just one member of counsel for the two defendants they were representing. But the trial judge, Judge Paul Mullaly, took the view that there should be separate counsel for each of the defendants. Consternation ensued. Frantic phone calls were made.

John Dever recommended this young fellow, name of Beach. As it transpired, Peter Kerr of Abbot Stillman knew you from Magistrates’ Court work, and took you on. I think that’s called being pushed in at the deep end.

The trial ran for some 24 sitting days. The plaintiff brought in Charles Francis QC to lead your opponent.

It was a running down case and it was hotly contested whether the plaintiff was even in the car at the time of the accident.

It was an eventful trial in many ways as in running it Judge Mullaly jailed the plaintiff’s son for 14 days. He had given evidence that his mother was at the scene but according to the judge he had engaged in “wilful prevarication”.

Your Honour worked on multiple questions for the jury, beginning with the threshold question: “Do you find the plaintiff was in the first-named defendant’s car?”.

Although the jury found for the plaintiff on a number of questions, on the question of damages it found she had already been adequately compensated. There was judgment against the plaintiff and an order for costs.

It was an auspicious and compelling start. So began your outstanding career as a common law jury advocate.

As time went by you developed something of a reputation in gender reassignment cases and represented a number of, shall we say, eccentric medicos and psychiatrists – some of foreign extraction, or advanced years, and some who were quite deaf. On occasions you had to conduct interviews in oppressive central heating – your instructor estimates, in one case, 30 degrees Celsius. With the heat and the shouting your Honour ended up quite red-faced. And yet you remained a model of courtesy.

A senior case-adjuster in one Sydney-based insurer was heard to say how much she hated dealing with Melbourne people in general, and how much she hated dealing with a particular instructor, and with you.

When this was duly reported to you your only question to your instructor was: “And how did you get to place first?”

Your Honour’s speed, attention to detail, sound judgment and quick decisions will add to the strong common law Trial Division of this Court.

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

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