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31 March, 2005  
The short goodbye

David Levine, who used to run the very busy NSW Supreme Court defamation list, has retired from the bench. The leading lights of the defamation caper turned out to send him off

imageNSW Supreme Court judge David Levine retired today (Thursday) in typically provocative style.

In his last defamation judgment after 17 and half years on the bench, Justice Levine found for the plaintiff, a former policeman currently in prison on drugs charges (El Azzi v Nationwide News)

Everyone who was anyone in the defamation game (and some who werent) was packed into courtroom 10A to see Justice Levine off. It was a sea of robes and wigs punctuated by the presence of veteran advocate Clive Evatt in mufti and slippers.

Bruce McCintock SC paid tribute to Levine’s distinguished 40-year legal career by referring to his father Aaron Levine, a NSW District Court judge who made courageous decisions on abortion and obscenity in the 1960s.

David Levine had demonstrated courage, too, McClintock told the court, as well as honesty, straightforwardness, courtesy, patience and forbearance.

This last quality he was particularly grateful for, McClintock said.

Justice Levines opening response was characteristically elegant.

I have been persuaded on this by what you have said, to form a favourable view.

His Honour then proceeded to name those practitioners who had during the course of his career, pleased me by their presence. He noted Evatt who was paying the court his usual attention i.e. reading his notes, Bob Stitt SC, a formidable advocate and old friend Judge Ken Taylor.

David Levine saved his parting shot for the culture of modern management, describing it as the most insidious development in the administration of justice in the last 17 and half years.

An ad-libbed version of an Attorney Generals Department memo read to the court illustrated the point.

The parameters of the paradigm of the protocol I shall erect as I lead myself by example will permit me to confront and resolve the future challenges, all of which lay before me.

It also captured Justice Levines wry, idiosyncratic take on modern life.

We will miss him particularly as his thoughts and judgments provided plenty of sustenance to the readers of this organ and our sister publication the Gazette of Law & Journalism.