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Welcome of his Honour Judge Anthony Kelly

Welcome of his Honour Judge Anthony Kelly

By LIV Media

Courts 

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Address on the occasion of the welcome of His Honour Judge Anthony Kelly upon his appointment as a Judge of the Federal Court of Victoria by Belinda Wilson, president of the Law Institute of Victoria on Friday 17 February 2017

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to congratulate and welcome Your Honour Anthony Kelly as a judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Like all old school photographs, the one of the senior class of 1976 at St Kevin’s College, Toorak, captures that moment of a mere 40 years ago.

The students are teenagers yet young men mirroring an ever-evolving, impatient and somewhat rebellious age.

But beneath that shaggy, shouldered-length hair were some lads bound for glory.

Your Honour stands alongside a future Commonwealth Games gold medallist, nearby is a budding champion VFL footballer and in the wings a fledgling notable actor.

And to cap this cavalcade of impending achievers, that year also included Plucka Duck, the man in the costume behind the segment of the former TV show “Hey Hey It’s Saturday”.

Not be out done, of course - let alone by a fluffy duck - Your Honour’s appointment to this court continues and enhances a remarkable history of St Kevin’s producing some of Victoria’s finest jurists.

Your Honour’s career path to this day was paved by commitment to hard work, with combined study at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology from 1977 and articles at Gilbert Field & Warne.

A solicitor there until 1985 and then the following two years at Ryan Carlisle Needham Thomas, Your Honour was perfectly equipped to sign the Bar Roll and read with Julian Burnside QC.

Earlier, then barrister, now Justice John Middleton of the Federal Court of Australia, lectured Your Honour – and also friend,  now Judge Joshua Wilson on the bench this morning – at RMIT as did A.J.Myers QC.

While a strong and positive influence, it is said that Justice Middleton was forced to bribe Your Honour and Judge Wilson to attend his tutorials on evidence by holding them at nearby the Oxford Hotel.

Much later, and by then a brilliant Queen’s Counsel, His Honour asked during one trial together if Your Honour had listened to anything he had taught about the law of evidence.

There were other lessons from student days, particularly as a passenger in Your Honour’s battered VW Golf.

An endearing travel feature, Judge Wilson recalls, was the abrupt sloshing of water – that had entered through rust holes above and below - into the foot wells while under acceleration or breaking.

Of course, from the many who speak so highly of Your Honour and from what we have heard today, the credentials and qualities Your Honour brings to this court are suitably rusted on.

“He is one of those seriously smart guys,” notes one observer, “that you can take a problem to and he will analyse it from a factual level and a legal level and he’ll apply the existing principals and then ask the important questions.”

And like a constitutional lawyer, says another, Your Honour will dig and dig until one can dig no further.

To apply a tabloid edit to Your Honour’s voluminous case history, it has variously included collapses, derailments and explosions, outbreaks, revocations and misrepresentations - and a near deportation.

The latter relates to Your Honour’s “alleged” - and I tread lightly here given it is a source of some sensitivity – imperfect handwriting that once completely flummoxed a US Homeland Security officer at Houston airport.

After an overnight flight from London with Jonathan Beach QC, now Justice Beach of the Federal Court of Australia, during the exhaustive litigation over the Esso/Longford gas explosion, Your Honour wearily handed an immigration landing card to the officer who instantly returned it.

He “claimed” the handwriting was illegible and asked Your Honour to complete another card, a request that not even Your Honour’s renowned advocacy skills could persuade.

A “Texan Standoff” brewed until Your Honour’s instructing solicitor Mark Dobbie completed a new card and entry to – rather than deportation from – the US was gained.

The episode is a rare exception to Your Honour’s reputation as a lifeline for others.

Laurelle Atkinson, director of the Law Library of Victoria and Supreme Court librarian, has treasured Your Honour as a voice of reason – tactful and strategic - on the committee that manages our beautiful and priceless resource.

She once attended Your Honour’s chambers, limping after tearing a calf muscle dancing, it must be added, to former Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren’s song “Double Dutch”.

Rather than turning instantly to work, Your Honour focused on the injury and insisted of phoning Your Honour’s physiotherapist for an appointment - and making a mental note always sit “Double Dutch” out on the dance card.

One of the many solicitors privileged to have briefed Your Honour, Anna Smith, senior associate with K&L Gates, recalls how Your Honour last year picked up a Supreme Court banking case three weeks before openings, worked as hard as an articled clerk under great pressure and won a $2.5 million judgement for the plaintiff.

Despite Your Honour’s constant, reassuring smile, Ms Smith suspects that “we probably added 15 years to his life”.

Recently, a former justice generously wrote that Your Honour was up the task now at hand and recalled the advice to him of the late Neil McPhee QC to ensure one worked to find the enjoyment in it.  

With more than 90,000 annual applications, a high proportion of Family Law cases and an expansive jurisdiction often weighed with complicated, constitutional points and raw emotions, this court is not for the faint-hearted.

Your Honour clearly has the breadth of experience, personality traits and deep sense of social justice to become one of its best.

May it please the court.             

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E: media@liv.asn.au


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