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Welcome Master John Efthim

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Cite as: (2005) 79(9) LIJ, p. 37

Recently appointed Supreme Court of Victoria Master John Efthim was welcomed to the Supreme Court at a ceremony on 21 July 2005. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria president Tory Strong. An edited version of her speech follows.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria to extend our warmest congratulations to you on your appointment to this honourable Court.

As we have heard, today’s welcome is certainly an historical event and it is with great pleasure that I am able to represent Victoria’s solicitors who hold you in such high regard.

As one of your colleagues aptly put it, “good things happen to good people” and your appointment has certainly been met with a chorus of enthusiasm from throughout the profession.

Your extensive tertiary studies were coupled with more than 15 years in practice, with a wealth of diverse experience gained from your time at the Crown Solicitor’s Office, Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, the State Superannuation Board, the National Crime Authority and various other inhouse roles.

Since your appointment as a deputy registrar of the Federal Court in 1993 you have gained an impressive reputation for your mediation skills, in particular your role in settling the high profile Ansett matter.

In fact I’m told that if you were to have a nickname it must surely be “John ... I settled Ansett ... Efthim”, an achievement of which you are justly proud.

To the role of deputy registrar you brought “passion and flair” and have worked consistently hard to deliver a high level of service that is greatly appreciated and valued by the Court, practitioners and also their clients.

You are renowned for being personable and approachable. As one solicitor, said “he doesn’t stand on ceremony, gets on well with all staff and is a fairly informal person – always welcoming. John is a person you can describe as generous, supportive, kind, hard working and an excellent lawyer”.

Part of your informal nature includes your use of first names with many practitioners – which is greatly appreciated but occasionally results in you accidentally referring to them by first name in court.

And your enthusiasm and willingness to always assist others is reflected in the fact that you are the “preferred registrar” of many self-represented litigants.

The other reputation you have obtained is for the “quick-fire and rapid manner” in which you administer your List, leaving practitioners scurrying up and back from the Bar table as cases are disposed of. I believe your record is about 35 minutes, but I stand to be corrected.

The only peccadillo that could be uncovered was that a casualty of your ability to generate a huge amount of work and “juggle many balls in the air at the one time” is that you carry most things around in your head and “they don’t often make it down on paper”.

I think this point was beautifully illustrated by the gifts you received on your recent farewell from the Federal Court – which included a Filofax and “not one but two clocks, and one of them a Carlton clock, of course”.

You have also gained a reputation as “a bit of a prankster”.

On one occasion a fellow registrar had spent several hours working late on a lengthy matter and was dictating reasons, when he noticed the tape was playing up a little bit. You reportedly took great delight in then proceeding to tell him the next morning that the tape was completely blank. I’m not informed of the precise words that were used by your colleague when he was finally able to speak but I’m told he managed to “maintain appropriate decorum”.

We have also heard of the infamous spider bite you received while on duties in Broome. Clearly it must have been a very brave insect to bite you because if you were given half a chance there’s no doubt you would have used your “silky negotiating skills” to try and talk the spider out of it.

After returning to work after that illness, I believe you gave an unsuspecting practitioner their own fright. A female practitioner (Sarah) was appearing for a creditor on the hearing of a petition.

You granted the application and proceeded to pronounce the order with the words “ ... and I make a sequestration order of the estate of Sarah”.

The alarmed practitioner quickly interrupted to alert you to the fact that you had essentially pronounced her as bankrupt. With good humour you responded with the words “I am sorry, that was close. Aren’t you lucky”.

After more than a decade of service to the Federal Court there is no doubt that you will be sorely missed, but you will truly be a great asset to the Supreme Court as a master and no doubt make a significant contribution.

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