A Lesson Learned

December 15, 2014

Rockhampton Court

I recently came across Sir Gerard Brennan’s conference paper titled “Lessons from a life in the law” in which he tells the following anecdote (which he also told at his swearing in as CJ in 1995):

It is nearly 70 years since I first entered a courtroom presided over by my father in Rockhampton. That was in the war years when his associate was temporarily absent and I stepped into the role and demonstrated my lack of experience….. I had in one hand a pro forma sheet for charging a prisoner on trial and in the other the indictment signed and presented by the Crown Prosecutor. Mistaking the name of the Prosecutor for the name of the accused, I charged a kindly, meek and highly reputable man with the crime of rape. Counsel for the accused, in accordance with the camaraderie of the Bar, immediately announced his appearance for his learned friend and pleaded not guilty. And so I was given the first instalment of a lesson about life in the law. It was not about the need to follow the form — that was only too obvious — it was a lesson about the relationship that is built among members of the legal profession who share a deep respect for their vocation — a respect which fosters warm personal relationships even when they are engaged as adversaries.”

Brennan, Gerard. Lessons from a life in the law.  Judicial Review: Selected Conference Papers: Journal of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, The, Vol. 11, No. 3, Sept 2013: 245-264

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph of the Rockhampton Court House.

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