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Welcome of His Honour Judge David O’Callaghan

Welcome of His Honour Judge David O’Callaghan

By LIV Media



Address on the occasion of the welcome of His Honour Judge David O’Callaghan upon his appointment as a Judge of the Federal Court of Victoria by Belinda Wilson, president of the Law Institute of Victoria on Friday 10 February 2017 at 9.30am.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to congratulate and welcome Your Honour David O’Callaghan as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia.

The social networking service Twitter restricts its 300-odd million users to only 140 characters.

It is, apparently, just enough space to lead the free world and follow complete strangers or celebrities.

Your Honour’s use of it – under the handle @DOCcheesehead – was brief.

“I think I used twitter once, then thought better of it,” Your Honour remarked.

Let the internet record show that Carrie La Seur – US attorney, novelist and former associate of this court – welcomed Your Honour to Twitter in 2014 with the observation: “And you’re no longer an egg! Well done.”

Tweeting was still only for the birds when Your Honour back-packed through America as a teenager.

One of the first of many revelations on that trip was the improbable but irresistible story of the Green Bay Packers National Football League team and their legendary coach Vince Lombardi.

Each would become significant in Your Honour’s life.

In fact, David Maraniss’ biography of Lombardi – “When Pride Still Mattered” – is, in Your Honour’s opinion, one of the greatest sporting books.

Your Honour, as we have heard, studied law at the University of Melbourne, then served articles in 1981 at the former firm Madden Butler Elder & Graham with the kindly, careful and competent Alan Fenton.

Refreshments at Matildas in Queen Street were sometimes doubly needed for any articled clerk who failed to answer a question from the formidable Supreme Court Listings Master Vincent Gawne.

Your Honour became associate to Justice John Keely of this court, then attained a Masters of Law at Yale Law School in 1984 and later worked as a foreign associate with the New York firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

During 10 years at the Victorian Bar from 1986, Your Honour set the foundations for a remarkable career that has culminated in this worthy appointment. Your Honour returned to Yale as a visiting lecturer in 1996, the same year

Your Honour’s beloved Fitzroy Football Club was forcibly merged with the Brisbane Lions.

The Lions’ loss of Your Honour’s lifelong support was the Green Bay Packers’ gain, a team whose early underdogs story mirrored that of the Roy Boys.

US attorney Jonathan Freiman first met Your Honour soon after graduating from Yale when a lasting friendship began over breaks from billable work hours in a café in New Haven, Connecticut.

It was a somewhat bohemian place yet several blocks away from a more convenient spot across from work.

After about two weeks, catching breath over flowing topics about law, US history and the Constitution, family and friends and workmates, he asked why, given work pressures and distance, Your Honour preferred that particular café.

“This is where we belong, Jonathan,” Your Honour replied, surveying the writers, students and musicians. “We aren’t the bohemians, but we’re the people wearing suits that like to sit with the bohemians.”

At Wiggin and Dana, in New Haven, between 1998 and 2000, Your Honour, with Mark Kravitz - the firm’s then head of its appellate practice – once successfully argued a case based on Pavey & Matthews, a leading Australian High Court decision on unjust enrichment.

It was only the second time in history a US court had cited a judgment of our High Court.

Mr Freiman, now a partner of the firm, recalls how Your Honour later helped raise funds in Melbourne for a portrait of Mr Kravitz - who had become a judge in 2003 - after he died in 2012.

Mr Kravitz made several visits to lecture at the University of Melbourne, and Mr Freiman acknowledges the contributions by the many friends Mr Kravitz made here.

He believes, however, that their generosity was also from respect for Your Honour’s reputation as a barrister and as a man of warmth, kindness and modesty.

Ray Finkelstein, former distinguished judge of this court, remembers how some years ago Your Honour suggested that Yale graduates work at this court as researchers, including some who became associates.

While the funding lasted, the program – which later expanded to include young indigenous lawyers – brought new and broader perspectives to the jurisdiction and judges and was an enormous benefit to all.

Mr Finkelstein describes Your Honour as a “lawyer’s lawyer”, one interested in simply having young lawyers become good old lawyers.

There have clearly been many successes and achievements during Your Honour’s professional life, from silk in 2003, distinguished service to the Victorian Bar and contributions throughout Australia and overseas.

Few, however, we submit, were as personally satisfying as shirt-fronting the Australian Football League in 2010 over its alleged breach of a clause in the merger agreement between Brisbane and Fitzroy.

The dispute centred on a claim that Brisbane had altered the Lion logo – disparaged as the “Paddle Pop” lion – when the agreement stated the merged club would retain the original one.

The case settled on terms, it’s said, favourable to the plaintiffs.

In a letter congratulating Your Honour becoming a judge, Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, who led the tenacious battle to try to save Fitzroy, noted that history would record that Your Honour and the late Justice Peter Buchanan of Victoria’s Court of Appeal – who each provided much pro bono advice for the fight – had been launched into the judicial stratosphere by a love of the Lions.

In closing, we are thankful that Your Honour has recovered from injuries sustained in a bad fall last Christmas time from Cisco - a horse of more than 14 hands - when he spooked and a stirrup and the reins got disengaged.

Your Honour painfully recalls that it was a “very long way down”.

But as Vince Lombardi once said – “It’s not whether you get knocked down, but whether you get up.”

Your Honour’s now gotten back on the horse, so to speak, and saddled up for this challenging new role, one we are certain will be fulfilled long and successfully.

May it please the court.


LIV Media Department

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