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Welcome Justice Betty King


Cite as: (2005) 79(9) LIJ, p. 36

Recently appointed Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Betty King was welcomed to the Supreme Court at a ceremony on 19 July 2005. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria president Tory Strong. An edited version of her speech follows.

It is a testament to your Honour and a reflection of the high regard with which you are held that so many friends, family and colleagues are present today.

During your time at the Bar and more than five years on the Bench of the County Court, you have made a significant contribution to the law but certainly have done so with a great deal of panache.

Appointed to the County Court in 2000, your Honour has presided over a number of complex, high-profile cases – a trend that will no doubt continue following your appointment to this honourable Court.

It is particularly pleasing that I have this opportunity to thank your Honour for the great enthusiasm, assistance and support that you have given to many young lawyers through your contributions to the Law Institute’s Young Lawyers’ Section, where you have regularly attended and participated in a range of events.

As a former president of the Section, and as still “a relatively young lawyer”, I can certainly speak from personal experience to say how important it is to have great mentors, particularly women mentors, within the profession to inspire and to guide. Your Honour has certainly fulfilled both those roles with great aplomb.

And it’s not only young lawyers who have had the benefit of your skills, expertise and enthusiasm. The sell-out crowd that packed the Athenaeum Theatre in April this year for the Legal Comedy Debate certainly witnessed a different side of the judiciary following your starring role.

Ably assisted by Judge Gaynor of the County Court, your Honour not only had the crowd rolling in the aisles, but successfully advanced the debate topic that “Women lawyers do it better” and lived up to the debate’s motto of “Outwit, outsmart, outplay”.

We have heard of your penchant for pony skin boots. But before those there was a pair of striking purple leather knee high boots. Not content with confining the colour purple to your footwear, your Honour also accessorised the boots with matching purple reading glasses, specially blended purple nail polish from New York and very briefly a purple streak in your hair.

But the purple glasses have now been replaced by red glasses. I’m told one of the more cheeky members of the Bar said that when you moved from wearing the purple pair of glasses to the red pair, perhaps you were predicting your next judicial appointment.

Parents and families are inevitably pivotal to ensuring people fulfil their potential and succeed in a demanding career such as the law and I’m told your Honour’s were no different. As a hard worker from a non-legal background you worked your way through university as a waitress and by working in the family shop.

By the time your Honour went to the Bar, you had moved back home, which at the time was a flat above the family milk bar in King Street. When first at the Bar, you used to run back to the shop for something to eat during the court break and I’m told were put to work by your mother Marie buttering sandwiches for the lunch rush.

We have heard of your daughter Liz who has pursued a legal career and I hope you will permit me to share one of the fond memories she has of your Honour.

Liz informs me that your Honour has “an amazing knowledge of criminal law” but she claims you may have inadvertently put at risk her capacity to pass evidence while undertaking the subject at university.

Apparently you picked up the evidence textbook, read two pages and said, “This guy has no idea” and started picking apart the author’s commentary.

Unfortunately for Liz, the author of the book was also her lecturer and the one marking the examination.

Forced between choosing the advice of a parent and that of the examiner, Liz opted for following the prescribed text and we are pleased to report successfully made it through, and as we have heard went on to be admitted and sign the Bar roll.

A keen painter your Honour’s hobby was temporarily put on hold after injuring your wrist in a reported “gardening incident”. One hopes that despite your busy schedule ahead you find time to indulge your artistic flair.

On behalf of Victoria’s solicitors may I again congratulate you on your appointment and wish you a long and rewarding service of this honourable Court.

Secondary school: University High School
University: Melbourne University LLB
Admitted to practice: 3 April 1975
Date signed Bar roll: 14 August 1975
Read with: John Kaufman QC
Appointed QC: 24 November 1992
Appointed County Court judge: 2000


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