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4 February, 2003  

Justice Jeff Shaw has a poke at Dice … no arrests yet in Woollahra car scratching case … judge dismayed by Tasmanian Law Society’s disciplinary blunder … latest parliament attack on Bazza O’Keefe J … Philip King’s forgotten tome

Left jab to Dice

It was uplifting this morning to hear Justice Jeff Shaw at his swearing-in ceremony at the NSW Supreme Court have a little swipe at the Dice Man.

One paragraph is all it took for a poke at Dice’s ultra dry rambling to the drones and crashers of the right at the Quadrant din-dins. Shaw said:

“Justice Heydon recently quoted George Orwell, in his well publicised Quadrant speech, in defence of traditional legal institutions. Only with trepidation would I enter such controversies. But I do venture to refer to the English historian E.P. Thompson, who when referring to some of our old legal forms, said that the rule of law is an unqualified human good and supported institutions which ‘have proved to be flexible, capable of modification through centuries of conflict and, after protracted struggles, of reform’.”

Heydon’s message in his speech last year is that he is the Dixonian embodiment of the legalistic approach to judicial interpretation. Yet somehow we won’t be shocked if, as E.P Thompson suggests, Dice proves to be flexible and ends up a stark raving activist.

The jangle of keys

The saga of the Kilminster Lane car slasher still has no closure.

Woollahra hairdresser Barbara Sylvester has just taken her Saab to the panel beater to be repaired after its duco had fallen foul of a key which happened to be clenched in the hand of someone who looked suspiciously like Stuart Meredith Littlemore QC, the laneway’s most famous resident.

Meredith had arranged for a deed of release to be drawn up, the terms of which provided that his wife fork-out $1,160.25 to repair Mrs Sylvester’s car, as long as the society snipper withdrew her complaint to the Paddington Police, accepted that no one called Littlemore was in any way whatsoever responsible for the duco attack and that she would say nothing hurtful about the great silk.

Needless to say, Mrs Sylvester refused to sign this lulu of a deed and so has not been compensated by Mrs Littlemore. The hairdresser is paying the excess herself at this stage but has not withdrawn her complaint to the police.

In the meantime, she has had further discussions with the Paddington coppers, who are still pursuing their inquiries.

Meredith himself put out an extraordinary pre-Christmas announcement, claiming he was being “blackmailed” by other neighbours who also claimed their car had been scratched. He too complained to Paddington Police.

Justinian understands that a vehicle belonging to head of the Australian Women Lawyers Association Dominique Hogan-Doran and hubby Patrick (Vanity) Fair, who also inhabit property in Kilminster Lane, had suffered scratching and that Littlemore flew into a rage when this was brought to his attention.

The Constable in charge of the matter didn’t seem too swept away by the dramatic “blackmail” allegation, saying:

“Blackmail is his [Littlemore’s] wording … There is nobody out investigating this. They are out doing other important things – search warrants, stolen property, $5 million worth of safe robberies….”

So far no arrests have been made.

Map of Tasmania

The Tasmanian legal community has had more than its fair share of strife and distraction in recent years. At the moment it is collectively waiting on the reserved reasons of Justice Crawford of the Van Diemen’s Land Supreme Court in the matter of the local Law Society and the three Richardsons: Father Greg, Mother Anita, and Baby Scott.

The orders are a foregone conclusion because Justice Crawford said that there is no way he will be making findings of professional misconduct against any of the three Richardsons.

It is his blast against the Law Society and its processes that will make for the uplifting reading.

Father, mother and baby Richardson are all lawyers admitted in Taswegia. Greg is the doyen of the criminal bar on Tasmania’s north west coast, while mother Anita (Betts) is now at the Sydney Bar & Grill doing crime.

The trouble began when it emerged that young Scott had been accused of taking a collaborative approach to some course work at the University of Tasmania. There had been a finding of academic misconduct, however after he was admitted it was set aside on appeal.

Before the university stipes Scotty was represented by Andre Slicer, son of Justice Slicer of the Supreme Court of Tassie.

Scott’s admission was moved by his parents, Greg and Anita.

Subsequently, when it heard about the university’s investigation and finding in relation to young Richardson’s academic conduct, and that this had not been disclosed prior to admission, the Law Society sought advice from Peter Garling SC in Sydney.

Disciplinary proceedings were commenced against all three – mother, father and son.

Peter Tree appeared for father Richardson, Clockface Gunson SC appeared for mother Richardson and Ken Proctor for Scott. The society briefed Ruth McColl, the former president of the Sydney Grill, to prosecute.

Justice Crawford asked McColl whether her instructions were to seek the striking off of all the Richardsons.

Jan Martin, the executive director of the Tasmanian Law Society at the time (now CEO of the Law Society of South Australia) was in court.

The court was told that the law society was seeking to strike them off for professional misconduct.

Later, the society told the court that it did not really want them struck off. Indeed, there was no resolution that the Richardsons were meant to suffer that penalty at all.

The confusion was considerable and remains unclear because now the law society is seeking to reopen the case on the basis that some of Jan Martin’s evidence was incorrect. It is unlikely that the judge will allow that, because he appears to have reached his conclusion about the cack-handed methods of the society.

As he reserved his decision, Crawford said:

”...throughout this case, I have had a growing sense of disappointment that the Law Society chose to bring these proceedings against these people. It may be they’re trying to make a point – I don’t know, and of course I was not privy to the decision of the Law Society to bring these proceedings. But it seemed to me that these proceedings have been entirely inappropriate – having regard to the matters that Mr Gunson has just been submitting to me, particularly, and to the fact that this finding of academic misconduct has been set aside.

And this was not, in my view, the appropriate case – or these three respondents were not the appropriate persons to be taking these proceedings against, if the Law Society was wishing to make some point to prospective applicants who are students at law school.

So, I’m disappointed about that, that the Law Society has done this. Although, at the same time, I was pleased to hear that they accepted their counsel’s opinion. My experience of being on the Law Society Council, and it was between 20 and 30 years ago, was that the council would get counsel’s opinion, and then 16 legal brains around the table would then dissect it and disagree with almost everything in it, and decisions were only made with considerable difficulty. So, I was pleased to hear that the council has that policy to accept their counsel’s advice.

But even so, I’m still – express my disappointment that these proceedings were ever taken. And there will certainly not be any finding of professional misconduct against any of the respondents.

I will have to write something about this, and that’s going to take me some time. I’m not going to rush it. But, I say it again, I am not going to find professional misconduct with any of these three people ? they can leave this courtroom confident of that.”
The mild one

We’ve just caught up with the latest bound volume of the Hansard of the NSW Parliament, where we see that at the end of last year the member for Blacktown, the lovely Paul Gibson, made another astonishing attack on Justice Bazza O’Keefe of the Supreme Court.

O’Keefe had been the NSW Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, before whom Gibson had appeared in an inquiry into Kings Cross criminal Louis Bayeh’s claim that he had been bribing the MP for some time.

While the inquiry was still on foot O’Keefe made some ill-advised remarks about Gibson when launching an ICAC report on Aboriginal land councils at Sydney town hall. The commissioner suggested that Gibson was a racist and not interested in the plight of Aboriginal people.

Gibson’s lawyers made an application to the Supreme Court to remove O’Keefe from the hearing. Einstein J upheld the application on the ground that O’Keefe had shown bias towards the person he was investigating. Jeremy Badgery-Parker took over the ICAC inquiry into Gibson.

In the wash-up Gibson was cleared of any rorting, largely because Bayeh was too shonky a witness. However, the Badger said:

”...I find myself utterly unable to have any confidence whatsoever in the truth or reliability of anything said by Gibson when it conflicts with the evidence of any other witnesses, other than Bayeh.”

Gibson sued O’Keefe for defamation arising from the remarks at the town hall and received an out of court settlement of about $130,000, of which $75,000 was paid out of ICAC’s budget.

Gibson has never forgotten. When O’Keefe left ICAC and went back to the Supreme Court, Gibson told parliament that the judge was the “leper” of the legal system.

Now at the end of last year he was at it again. If Labor wins the March State election, Gibson says he’s going to move for a joint sitting of both houses of parliament so that “this judge be sacked from his position”.

Gibson referred to a report on matters arising from a meeting between O’Keefe and the parliamentary committee that has oversight of ICAC. Incredibly, no effective objection under the standing orders was made to Gibson’s significantly under-reported tirade:

Now read on:

Mr GIBSON: (Blacktown) [10.03 a.m.]: I believe this report is one of the most damaging reports, and it is about a person who is a former Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and currently a judge in the Supreme Court. He is the public face of the New South Wales justice system. As the Commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC], Barry O’Keefe set a standard and a code of conduct which he applied to the letter of the law. Unfortunately, he failed to meet his own standard. He fell on his own sword. In his case, greed replaced logic. He is the gamekeeper who used his office to become a poacher.

He is a great example of a person who loves administering the law, but who chooses not to abide by it. The report of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption proves beyond doubt that Justice Barry O’Keefe has told lies to the committee and to the ICAC, he has committed fraud, he has given misleading information on a visa application, and he is corrupt. At best, he is manipulative and, at worst, he is a scoundrel. A full inquiry must be held to examine the conduct of this person who holds one of the most important offices in this State….

Mr GIBSON: Such is the scathing nature of the report that, if I am returned after the next State election, I will be moving a motion in accordance with the standing orders for a joint sitting of both Houses for the removal of Justice Barry O’Keefe from his position as a judge. The committee’s report proves what I have been saying. A full inquiry must be held to examine the conduct of this person who holds one of the most important positions in this State. Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. This is one of the most serious cases of corruption to come before this Parliament. I make a very simple call for justice for all.

Barry O’Keefe went to Zimbabwe between 4 and 7 October 1999. He gave no explanation to the ICAC for his trip and he made no report on the trip. No invitation had been received by Barry O’Keefe or by the ICAC. The committee and the ICAC sought advice. The committee wrote to Barry O’Keefe on 30 January 2001 seeking answers to many questions. In a display of arrogance, six months later, on 22 June 2001, then Commissioner O’Keefe advised the ICAC that he was in Zimbabwe on commission work, which included the writing of reports that had to be completed by 1999. He had to go to Zimbabwe to write reports for the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption! In subsequent letters to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, he changed the reason for the trip and said that he had attended a meeting of the African Heads of State, but that when he arrived he was prevented from attending by an incident involving President Mugabe. That made two reasons that he had given for visiting Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Seven months later, on 19 July 2001, a letter from Barry O’Keefe to the ICAC stated reasons for the Zimbabwe part of the trip – the third version – and he virtually said that a decision was made on the spot. The reason he finished up in Zimbabwe was that there were no appropriate aircraft seats. In the letter of 19 July 2001, Barry O’Keefe gave a further explanation of why he was there. The letter stated in part:

‘Attendance at the ABD/OECD Conference in Manila was for the purpose of the ICAC representing Australia…The Manila Declaration was an important anti-corruption step for the region… It was found that following the Conference in Manila there were no appropriate aircraft seats… It was decided to utilise this short interval by attending the meeting of African Heads of State which was to be held at a resort in Zimbabwe… The comparison between the stances adopted in relation to corruption … by President Mugabe of Zimbabwe on one hand and President Festus Mogae of Botswana on the other, promised to be interesting in the light of the approaches to corruption… However, at the last moment… because of an incident involving President Mugabe, the public and observers were excluded… I was therefore not able to attend it and I spent the majority of time between arrival and commencement of the Interpol Conference in Durban… working on ICAC reports…’

Very good! But what he does not realise is that the ICAC committee had received correspondence from business and leisure travel specialists Travelforce, a company that he used, again not according to the rules. It wrote to him on 10 September 1999, weeks and weeks before he left. Bear in mind that he said it was only a last-minute thing and he went there for this great conference. The company wrote:

‘Please find attached the updated itinerary. All flights are now confirmed, even the Sunday flight from Johannesburg – Victoria Falls. As mentioned previously the fare for the whole of the attached itinerary will be $10,815.00, plus taxes, so please let me know who will be ticketing what I understand you would like a daily rate at The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong… I am in the process of finding what’s available at the Victoria Falls Hotel. I think you should make this the base for the four nights and do excursions from there. Are you alright for accommodation in Durban?... For the weekend out of Durban I would suggest The Selborne Park Hotel, which is 40 minutes south, and [has] an outstanding golf course.’

He was going to Zimbabwe to attend a conference and weeks and weeks before he had planned an itinerary to do excursions. The travel agency also wrote on 22 September 1999. Amongst other things the letter stated that the new itinerary had been set up. It continued:

‘On the Monday afternoon at Victoria Falls I would recommend the Sunset Cruise on the river. This can be included. You can then do a walk of the falls…and some game observing as well…I need the OK on these African arrangements asap…’

That letter was dated 22 September yet the judge told us that he found himself in Zimbabwe wanting to go to this great conference on corruption. It was also stated that the cost of the four days he was in Zimbabwe would be $7,378.13 plus taxes. He also claimed expenses for this part of the trip. On 22 June 2001 O’Keefe wrote to the ICAC and said he was not on holidays for that four-day period; he was doing commission work – another lie.

The ICAC wrote back to O’Keefe and said it could not find any mention of this part of the trip in general or any discussion that he had had with any ICAC officials and that as well the commission could not find the report. The commission also advised Commissioner O’Keefe that 4 October was a public holiday, for which he also claimed expenses.

This bloke has got his snout, his body and everything in the trough. On 19 June 2001 the ICAC wrote back and said that the report that O’Keefe had asked for could not be found anywhere and nobody at the ICAC knew anything about it.

In the few seconds left to me let me say that there is a red light flashing over this man’s conduct and he must be judged. Judges must be beyond question. They have the freedom and liberty of citizens in their hands and justice must be seen to be done. As I said, soon after the next State election I will move that a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament be held and that, under the standing orders, this judge be sacked from his position.”

How’s that for a good Labor hater.

Philip King’s forgotten book

The untimely death at 64 of NSW Law Society councillor and former Allens partner Philip King was acknowledged in a variety of ways.

However, we at Justinian are saddened that one of his lasting contributions has not been remembered. I’m speaking here of the book, Professional Practice Management, by Philip King, $55 from LBC. The work was a compilation of wisdom gleaned from King’s time as managing partner at the House of Allens.

Justinian celebrated its publication in 1996 with a fulsome review in our widely admired Critics Corner segment. By way of an encomium to the happy memory of Philip King we reproduce that long forgotten critique by our regular reviewer “Worm”:

“How to keep the pecker under control and walk the pathway to success

In this book the former managing partner of Allen Allen & Hemsley, Philip King, outlines a bizarre, highly ordered mode of existence, which he urges upon that important branch of humanity whose purpose in life is to manage law firms.

Mr King suggests that ‘partners, staff and dependants’ rely on the ability of a managing partner to be absolutely tiptop in mind, body and soul.

According to this thesis the ambitious manager is required to wolf down scrumptious bowls of muesli, plan every moment of the day, be careful with money and organise ‘regular quality time’ with the spouse.

While other citizens are stuffing themselves with sausage rolls and cream buns, getting on the grog and rutting like stoats, Philip King recommends self control because managing partners are ‘role models who set the standards for others’.

How very true.

One of the most valuable little tips in this handy volume is to divide the week into ‘good’ food days and ‘bad’ food days. Adherents of this particular regime should eat bad food on only two days of the week, preferably weekends. Bad food includes such wicked items of nourishment as oysters, prawns, brains, cheese fats and oils.

These can only be eaten as rewards for having to endure the cereals, nuts, roots berries, grass and dried bark that successful managers have to munch five days a week.

King also believes that clients would be impressed if they were not served alcohol at lunch. ‘If wining them is essential, then it should be done on a bad food day.’

How clients are expected to survive a partners’ lunch without the anaesthetising effects of alcohol is not explained.

But it is under the heading ‘Domestic’ that this book really comes alive, and on this basis alone it should be kept in easy reach as a reference tool.

Of course, regular quality time with the ‘spouse’ should, like everything else, be planned. ‘A good time is when you’re fresh in the early mornings combined with regular exercise… Ensure you have adequate energy reserves for regular romantic times…’

The marriage of a successful managing partner can be made to work with attention to details – ‘little gestures of affection and regard and boosting the other’s ego by statements to others and, especially, to your kids. Also, don’t forget the little surprise thank you gifts such as flowers, outings and, of course, compliments’.

King also has some advice which, if followed, could alter the whole culture of the practice of law: ‘Don’t even think of flirting at the office – if a charge of sexual harassment doesn’t get you, a romantic attachment will, and will interfere badly with staff morale and management generally.’ Heaven forbid!

During his time as managing partner of Allens flirting was ruthlessly stamped out, among all the sexes.

Finally King recommends that serious lawyers should catch public transport.’

Vale Philip King. RIP.