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Welcome for Judge My Anh Tran, County Court of Victoria

Welcome for Judge My Anh Tran, County Court of Victoria

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 Honour My Anh Tran as a judge of the County Court of Victoria.

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.

Your Honour, it is a pleasure to formally welcome you to the Court today, a Court where you have already spent several years in the very busy role as a judicial registrar.

It’s also a great pleasure to welcome a woman of Asian background, of Vietnamese descent, to this jurisdiction and to the Victorian judiciary.

Cultural diversity in the most senior echelons of the law has been a strong focus of the Law Institute of Victoria over the past few years, and we hope that many more judicial appointments of lawyers from diverse cultural backgrounds might be made in the near future.

Your Honour is similarly enthusiastic about the need for more diverse representation at senior levels in the Law. You believe that the judiciary and legal profession should strive to reflect the society in which we live.

You have told us that, with respect to diverse talent, “whether it is cultural, socio-economic, gender diversity or whatever, giving them a foot in the door is hugely important.”

To that end, you have been an ardent and dedicated mentor of young lawyers, of giving back to them some of the insights and opportunities that have been offered to you.

Someone who had the benefit of you as a mentor is lawyer Annabelle Chai, who says, Your Honour is very empathetic and approachable, and clearly passionate about helping others navigate a legal career.

You like to lift others with you, she says, and Your Honour’s advice has been to embrace the things that make us different.

Annabelle Chai says you give others “the courage to be ourselves and to forge our own unique paths”.

Law was not your goal when you were young, and you say, you had never met a lawyer before you went to university.

But you didn’t want to do Medicine because that was, in your words, “the dream of every Vietnamese father”—and you were always the anti-authoritarian type.

You were raised in what sounds like idyllic circumstances – on a farming acreage just south of Geelong, where there were goats and horses, chickens and ducks.

Your mother, Fay, taught children in special education classes to read.

Your father, Nguyen, was born in Vietnam. He was an academic electrical engineer – “a certifiable genius”, you say, who tells stories about how when he was young,  his parents made him sit exams … not just for himself but for others too.

We won’t say too much about that here.

On graduating from Geelong Grammar in 1993, you began a double degree in Science and Law at the University of Melbourne, focusing initially on Psychology and Maths.

Although you topped the year in Psychology, you hated it. You did a second year – and still hated it.

So you turned to Hydrology and Environmental Science. You thought, understandably, that a perfect complement would be the Environmental Law subject in your Law degree.

Wrong move. You hated it too.

Lawyer Felicity Cara Carson met you at Law School. She says you were always exceptionally clever, wise beyond your years, fiercely independent in your thinking and a little eclectic in your style.

Your Honour loved dancing at the Law Balls and the Metro nightclub in those years. You loved hunting down bargains at the op-shops in Brunswick, and your share-apartment was the site for many ‘murder mystery’ nights, dinner nights or drinks nights.

She suggests you also had strong opinions on other people’s boyfriends, even if you didn’t realise it at the time.

Most of all, she says, Your Honour is completely unpretentious and a joy to be around.

You graduated in 1998 and deferred doing your articles after finding an ad on the walls of the sandstone Quad at uni – the Court of Appeal was seeking a researcher.

You applied, secured the job and it was there in 1999, in the basement of the Court of Appeal, down next to the prisoners’ cells, that you discovered you absolutely loved Law.

It was the philosophy of Law, arguing about the Law, working with judges who were so learned and switched-on, that made you decide this was your lifetime dream.

After the Court of Appeal, you shifted to Freehill Hollingdale & Page, where you did your articles – or at least thought you did your articles.

We say as much because, there was a calamitous end to it all, when it was discovered that the principal who was meant to be your supervisor – a former investment banker – turned out to have no legal credentials.

Let’s just say that there was a lot of explaining to do at Freehills when the authorities found out.

You eventually obtained your articles and went to the Bar in 2002, harbouring secret ambitions to specialise in areas such as intellectual property, banking and finance law.

Darren James, now at Mills Oakley, has known you for more than 20 years. He says that, even when you were doing your articles, it was clear, you would be an outstanding and compelling advocate, because you have an ability to get to the heart of issues, in a very quick and comprehensive way.

Justice Maree Kennedy of the Court of Appeal says you were her junior of choice when Her Honour was a silk.

Her Honour says that as a barrister, you were fast and smart, your writing was fantastic, you were “hard-working with a heart” and – quote – you were “one of the few who could keep up”.

Together, Justice Kennedy, and you, took on complex and multi-layered cases, such as the judicial review of federal administrative decisions in the MRI machines case, and you often represented superannuation trustees.

Your Honour also did international construction arbitration in Singapore, but while you very much enjoyed being a barrister, you made a very important decision in May 2008 to walk away from Law completely.

It was a decision that concerned many people in Melbourne’s legal community, who wondered at the time, whether you were blowing up a brilliant career.

You were married and pregnant, and instead of taking off a year or two, you just walked away from it all.

It was certainly not an easy decision for you, but you have said that you have no regrets.

You are, many people say, an “all-or-nothing” person, extremely hard-working and highly focused. In Your Honour’s view, you could not fathom being the mother you wanted to be unless you gave it your “all”.

Your children Chloe, now 12, and Joseph, now 10, are here today, as is your husband, who is currently studying the subject you hated most – Psychology.

You were enticed back to Law in late 2014, when Justice Kennedy asked you to consider applying for the Judicial Registrar role in this court.

Her Honour, at that time was a judge of this Court and in charge of the Commercial Division.

You and Sharon Burchell, who is sitting on the Bench today with you, pitched for an innovative job-sharing arrangement by splitting the full-time role between you.

Both of you did the full gamut of work in managing the list, including presiding over preliminary hearings, discovery applications and taking on many mediations.

Your former associate Larissa Travassaros, now at the OPP, says you were renowned for long sittings both in court and in mediations.

It was part of the strategy adopted by you and Judicial Registrar Burchell that might be termed: “When in doubt, starve them out”.

When counsel saw the court clock ticking towards 1pm and suggested “Your Honour, that might be a convenient time … ”, you would say: “No, we’ll sit through the lunch break – let’s get on with it.”

And when the hearing calendar was full with, say six applications and a judicial mediation to boot, you would always find room to squeeze in more hearings.

Justice Kennedy says Your Honour is a proven specialist when dealing with self-represented litigants. Indeed, she says you seem to actually like them and you have an “amazing” settlement rate.

Your Honour also is ferociously competitive. During the pandemic lock-down last year, you took up running and eventually chalked up runs of 25 kilometres.

And when it came to the County Court Step Challenge, you figured the best way to win the competition, without doing much more was to get Judge Graham Anderson on board.

Now, for those present here today, we should note that Judge Anderson is an avid long-distance bushwalker. Indeed, he has walked across Latvia – several times.

Millions of steps were clocked during the challenge – millions – but your County Court team, came a surprising second.

Some people might call that sweet justice. Some might say it demonstrates that every team member has to do their part.

Your Honour, on behalf of the lawyers of this state, may you have a long, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable career as a judge.

May it please the Court.

 

 

 

 

 


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