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Welcome Judge Paul Lacava

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Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 27

Judge Paul Lacava was welcomed to the County Court of victoria on 5 June.
Among the speakers was LIV president Tony Burke. 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 the academic dux of Christian Brothers College in North Melbourne. You were also a very good handball player and cross-country and long-distance runner. The determination and staying power of the long-distance runner has served you well as a barrister.

You sat matriculation exams and started at the university rather young – having, as you occasionally remarked to old and close friends, skipped grade 1, something I’m sure you never dreamed would be extolled in your welcome to the Bench.

At university and on behalf of the law students, your youth and stamina came out in your participation each year in the annual Melbourne University Trike Race from Portsea to Melbourne.

You worked your way through university with the good money from labouring jobs over the long vacations.

You served articles with Michael Roet at Herbert Geer & Rundle. He recognised not only your industry and legal abilities, but also the mature ease with which you engaged with the sometimes quite crusty and difficult name partners, Keith Geer and Eric Rundle.

Although a small firm – at Niddrie and in the city – Herbert Geer & Rundle had major clients, including conveyancing for and through Stockdale & Leggo (courtesy of Keith Geer) and the Stenhouse Insurance Group Rock (courtesy of Eric Rundle – who was often in the UK, went fox-hunting with the Duke of Edinburgh and counted Sir Ninian Stephen among his close friends).

So it was that Herbert Geer & Rundle acted for the insurers in, for example, the West Gate Bridge litigation.

You had very good training there, and it was a matter of considerable distinction that you were admitted into the partnership within only a couple of years of your admission.

As a solicitor, you served on various LIV committees.

In particular, you were a member of the Victoria Legal Aid Committee. That committee, which Jack Harty chaired, and of which Jack Heffernan was the secretary, dispensed legal aid on behalf of the profession – funded then from the Solicitors Guarantee Fund.

The problem was that in 1975-76, that fund was wiped out by a more-than-$11 million defalcation.

Nothing to do with you, or the newly appointed secretary and executive director of the LIV, now-retired-Judge Gordon Lewis, but these were difficult times for the
LIV:

  • the wipe-out of the Guarantee Fund in 1975-76;
  • the flood at the LIV in 1976; and
  • the 1978 complete burning down of the LIV by arson.

It was at this time that you served on the Legal Aid Committee.

And in 1976-78 you personally introduced visits to Turana (the so-called “youth training” detention facility) to assist inmates with applications for legal aid until a proper system was put in place.

At the Bar, you were one of a group of counsel regularly briefed by the LIV to prosecute professional misconduct cases. That group included Chief Justice Warren, Justice Hansen and Judges Campton and O’Neill

Mr Riordan has spoken of the breadth and depth of your practice, both as a junior and as silk.

I would add to that your circuit work in Mildura, which included work for several generations in a Mildura family legal firm, continued for virtually the whole of your
27 ½ years at the Bar.

Your good works include some four years on the board of the Victoria Law Foundation, and of its audit and grants committees.

They also extend beyond the law to include some six years on the board of the Mary Immaculate Primary School in Ivanhoe; some four years on the council of Loreto Mandeville Hall; and some three years as president of the Ivanhoe East Junior Basketball Club, also coaching various teams.

A Carlton Football Club tragic, your late dog – never replaced – was “Jezza” (after Mr Jesaulenko). Sadly there is no team spirit at home as your wife Anna and your four daughters are all Essendon supporters.

The particular qualities I single out on behalf of Victorian solicitors are loyalty, grace and dignity.

You are a loyal and caring friend to many you have known from school, university and in the profession.

You have been loyal to your instructing solicitors, respecting and acknowledging their contributions in the work you did with them.

There is surely no higher compliment to any lawyer or counsel than that a fellow lawyer selects you to represent them personally – and you have been counsel of choice more than once in that situation.

And through everything, you have always treated others, and you have behaved, with unfailing grace and dignity.

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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