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Welcome Judge Frank Gucciardo

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Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 28

Judge Frank Gucciardo was welcomed to the County Court at a ceremony on 6 June. Among the speakers was LIV president Tony Burke. This is an edited version of his speech.

Your Honour is a man of letters and of learning. You have a deep fascination with the human condition, as befits a barrister whose career has taken him closer to the human condition in extremis than most. At the heart of your interest in history, politics, sociology and literature lies your identification with people.

You also have a keen sense of justice.

This Court and all who come before you will be well served by what one of your instructing solicitors – one who has been briefing you for the past 20 years – colourfully characterised as “all four legs of a quadrella”.

He was referring to your intellectual honesty, integrity, compassion and thorough decency.

You have the gift of great clarity, and simplicity, and elegance of expression – the ability to explain complex matters simply and engagingly. The ability to engage and to cut through.

This, and your humanity – and your personal charm and charisma – are some of the things that made you such a formidable jury advocate.

One long-time instructor offered a thought for your Honour’s consideration in your new role as judge. It was this: “Don’t underestimate your personal power of persuasion”.

You may see your charges to the jury in terms of information and conversation.

It is in simple “conversation” that your Honour is most persuasive – most effective as an advocate.

It is in the nature of the split profession that the solicitor is the constant – barristers come in and out of the case as they are available or not available or become jammed.

Particularly where a barrister is briefed for a discrete task, he or she returns the brief and dismisses that case from his or her thoughts.

You were the exception. Thus an instructor would receive a call from you: “Hi. I know you only needed me to fill in at the committal. But you might like to put a note in the file to look at the Court of Appeal decision that came down yesterday. I think it may have a bearing in your case.” Ever mindful. Ever attentive.

You were also supportive of the sole practitioner or small suburban firm that briefed you in large and complex cases.

While doing so you were conscientious to a fault about the proprieties – never doing anything anyone might think was solicitor’s work.

On the other hand, you moved mountains in your own preparation as a barrister, understanding and taking into account the limitations of the sole practitioner or small firm.

One pillar of the independent Bar is that it puts the suburban sole practitioner on an equal footing with the large city firm in having the same counsel available to them and their clients.

Your support of the sole practitioner was substantial, and much respected.

That said, you were also counsel of choice for the well-established and larger firms whose names we could all rattle off as the major specialist criminal law firms of Melbourne.

Your calm support was particularly appreciated when you came into a case at the very last moment because another barrister became jammed. There were never any recriminations. You worked with what you had. You supported the solicitor and client.

Let me now turn to your extraordinary contributions and services to the Italian community, particularly the Italian Catholic community.

For some seven years, from 1982 to 1988,
you worked in, and led, the Redemptorist Order’s Lay Community Youth Mission Team.

You also advised the then Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, the late Sir Frank Little, on youth matters and policy.

Your other major, long-term work was with the Italian Catholic Federation for the best part of 15 years, from 1986 to 2000.

You have also been involved in explaining the law to the Italian-speaking community. For more than 12 years, since 1996, you have been an occasional commentator on legal issues on Rete Italia.

And you have worked through the Italian government – for example, representing Australia in the 1988 Italians-in-the-World International Conference; and organising the first Australian conference for the Italian region of Campania.

Your work is not limited to Australia. You are an editorial board member and Contributor to Messaggero di Sant Antonia – an Italian monthly on current affairs and history published in Padua.

As a barrister you were known for your sketching during long trials.

You sketched one judge, who shall be nameless, looking like a rather nervous meerkat, peering over the Bench. It’s unlikely that you will be so depicted while on the Bench.

Let’s hope that from the Bench, and with the benefit of an enhanced view and greater opportunity, you might take to sketching counsel. I can just see a retirement income stream awaiting you.

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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