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Sir Terence O'Rort
20 July, 2006  
Blood on the bloodlines

Upheaval as the Queensland bar reaffirms its policy that outsiders should not pinch the plum jobs. Lyons quits as president after supporting his wife’s appointment to the Supreme Court. How dreadful is that? Sir Terence O’Rort analyses the situation

imageYesterday (Wed, July 19) Peter Lyons quit as president of the Queensland Bar n’ Grill. He had no choice as the council clung to the tattered line that when it comes to judicial appointments outsiders should not be poaching on barristers’ turf.

What with Lyons sticking-up for the appointment to the bench of his wife, a solicitor, he had nowhere to go but out. Naturally, his act of gallantry did involve a few awkward twists with pike.

You can have a look here at the thin-lipped little missive put out by the Bar n’ Grill last night and a “memorandum to members” from Lyons.

Vice-president Martin Daubney has slipped into the president’s chair. This is the same Daubney whose speech at Ann Lyons’ swearing-in was described by Peter Lyons as, “an inexcusable act that discredited and disparaged the integrity of the courts and the judiciary”.

What is interesting is that the council passed a resolution yesterday rejecting Lyons criticism of Daubney and further that the letter the then president sent members on Tuesday (see my report, Bloodlines on the bench) was written without notice to the bar council.

But what of Daubney’s ungenerous comments last week at the swearing-in and later to The Bowen Hills Bugle? We have to assume that his mealy-mouthed remarks were approved by council. If so, what an ungracious and self-interested bunch of berks they appear.

Really the whole bar council should resign. If you consider that the main job of the outfit is to promote its members onto the bench so other members can move up the food chain, then it has been a spectacular failure.

None of the last four judicial appointments in Queensland have come from the bar. Of the two most recent Federal Court appointments Andrew Greenwood was a solicitor and Berna Collier an academic. Ann Lyons was a solicitor who headed the Guardianship and Administrative Tribunal and Fleur Kingham, who has just gone to the District Court, was another rank outsider.

Where will the rot stop?

Of course, the bar council has long been pretty lame. Just cast your mind back to the time when my colleague Sir Johannes was running the place and giving the rule of law a bit of a tickle-up.

Where was your bar council then? Dithering.


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 20, 2006, 1:34 pm

I am a Qld Barrister who has also practised as a solicitor. I am a member of the Qld Bar Association. I endorse O'Rork's remarks and suggestions to the hilt but not for the reasons suggested (although I agree with his reasoning). The latest display by ALL personalities concerned, shows how out of touch with the realities of life and politics the Council of the QBA is. Frankly, none of them ought come within a bull's roar of the Bench, in those circumstances. For the record, of 127 "Silks" at the Qld Bar, only 1 is female. Of the next 200 senior junors, only 6 are female. Judge Lyons is senior to all of them and will, no doubt, prove her detractors wrong. Also for the record, I am male and not gay (not that there's any thing wrong with that!!)
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 20, 2006, 1:34 pm

I think you mean Andrew Greenwood. And I think on any rational basis his is a hard appointment to dispute - he's certainly one of the best and most experienced IP lawyers in the country. But in the meantime, the Qld government continues to appoint second-rate women who are in political favour and then claim the controvery is about diversity. It ain't. It's about passing over some brilliant women in favour of pretty ordinary ones with better contacts.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 20, 2006, 1:56 pm

Thank goodness I'm a NSW barrister.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 25, 2006, 6:41 pm

There may only be one female Silk at the Qld Bar, and six females in the top 200 juniors, but at least part of the reason for that is that so many have been appointed to Judicial office. I accept that some of the appointments have been well deserved and well received. This should be all about appointing the best person for the job. There is a genuine perception in Qld this is not happening on a consistent basis.