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Welcome for Magistrate Marita Altman Melbourne Magistrates Court

Welcome for Magistrate Marita Altman Melbourne Magistrates Court

By LIV Media

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May it please the court.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to welcome Your Honours Marita Altman and Trieu Huynh (pronounced True Hwin) as magistrates of this court.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and to any Elders with us today.

“They’re stealing all my friends!”

Your Honour Ms Altman’s irreverent lament in 2018 referenced the appointment of another close colleague to the bench.

It’s how many now innocently rue your judicial acquisition.

In reality, such sentiments signify the loss to our practicing profession of a widely respected and much-admired criminal law solicitor.

But it also strengthens enormously this court and directly benefits the community.

Your appointment – considered inevitable given your specialised expertise in and long dedication and affection for the Magistrates Court - has been universally applauded.

Adelaide-born on the first day of Spring to Ian, present today, and your late mother Louise, Your Honour grew up in a state that would bloom under the charismatic reformist Premier Don Dunstan.

At home you’d reliably find the tool your dad requested when squeezed under his car, then drive in it on Saturday mornings to a TAB where he’d put your grandmother’s bets on.

In later years the occasional flutter and a tiny share in a horse maintained an interest in racing.

Secondary education was at the former Northfield High School where – until this announcement - rocker Jimmy Barnes’ son David Campbell was its most notable alumni.

By Year 10 its English teacher recognised your writing and communication skills which would result in a Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 1990 and work in Sydney then Melbourne.

But having become a journo - and despite not wanting to be a lawyer - Your Honour began law at Monash University and did work experience with solicitor Tony Parsons at Slades and Parsons.

The breaking news headline splashed “ … Hold The Back Sheet - Croweater Correspondent Turns Legal Eagle.”  

After working Fridays there and graduating in 1998, you did articles with Mr Parsons, now a magistrate, and later became an employee solicitor.

Then partner now also magistrate Gerard Lethbridge recalls Your Honour as a smart and enthusiastic colleague who interacted well with clients.

You joined His Honour in 2000 when he established Lethbridges Barristers and Solicitors and cemented a friendship and built your legal skills.

The firm became a successful and harmonious collective which attracted talented solicitors like partner Alex Wilson and senior associate Una (pronounced Yoona) Ebsworth.

Each did work experience there and became paralegals under Your Honour’s guidance.

His Honour in 2007 left the firm in your safe hands.

Still, dilemmas were assessed by quoting the acronym WWGD “… What Would Gerard Do”?

It was, of course, what Your Honour did so reliably and consistently well that counted.

Kristina Kothrakis, partner at Doogue and George, observes that your example showed that females can progress in their firms, become partners, run a practice successfully, earn respect and accomplish it with good humour … and have fun along the way.

You are similarly admired as a role model for young practitioners hence your iconic status among female lawyers, notably through the association, Women in Crime.

A perfectionist, you maintained the highest standards – professional and ethical – prepared comprehensively, displayed genuine humanity and established trust with clients through honesty.

And everyone got the same unstinting level of attention, whether private or legally aided.

Your Honour often instructed now retired barrister Tony Lewis, including one time that embodies the travails of the solicitor.

Dramatically told by him mid-trial the defence case was doomed unless a leading professor of psychiatry was called, you found the witness and pleaded with him.

He generously cancelled pressing appointments and lectures and rearranged his schedule to appear.

When you arrived with him the next morning, Mr Lewis casually announced he’d agreed with the Crown that the expert was no longer needed.

“The trouble with barristers,” you seethed, “is that they tell you they need pink elephants for the circus, so you go out and find the circus and the elephant.

“You get the elephant painted bright pink and you produce it, but then the barrister says he doesn’t need it anymore.”

Ms Wilson speaks of Your Honour as forever going into bat for her … while others saw how ideally matched you both were.

“Marita was always in my corner,” she says of a great friend and lawyer who could turn 20 pages of prior convictions into a compelling story. 

Your Honour was the consummate plea-maker who preferred your own advocacy.

Barrister Simon Moglia recognises that for years you were a practitioner whose face alone at court inspired instant relief.

And he speaks elegantly of Your Honour’s work with members of the Gay community and those living with HIV who struck trouble.

You are revered as a lawyer who ‘got’ the sensitivities and prejudices that sadly still attach to being different or ill.

Mr Moglia adds that Your Honour can be proud of having done more than your share of rainbow justice.

The LIV has also benefitted these past two years from your contribution as a formidable co-chair with Melinda Walker of the Criminal Law Section executive.  

Gemma Hazmi, our General Manager, Policy, Advocacy and Professional Standards, cites your vibrancy, charm and precision – and fun.

She recalls the personas Your Honour and Magistrate Huynh (Hwin) assumed as hip hop/rappers in executive email exchanges … e.g. “Alt-n-pepper” and “Trieupac”.
And those Zoolander “blue steel” pouts puckered by the executive members after the photo shoot for our “Leaders in the Law” should have adorned our Christmas cards.      

So how to de-stress and unwind from this busy life … and to manage bad days in court and the agonies of barracking for St Kilda?

Partly by punching your personal trainer David Cooley in the head twice a week.

David’s not only copped it for ten years but has survived and will continue to support his tenacious friend in this challenging new role.

Your Honour has had the best training for it.

May it please the court.


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