The Courier-Mail

PLEASE GIVE US A BOSS: JUDGES

Two months on, top le­gal job still va­cant

- MATTHEW KILLORAN

QUEENS­LAND’S le­gal fra­ter­nity is in­creas­ingly con­cerned the Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing too long to ap­point the state’s new chief jus­tice.

Three judges have emerged as the top con­tenders for the job – Supreme Court Jus­tices Cather­ine Holmes, David Jack­son and Mar­garet McMurdo.

But the ex­tended con­sul­ta­tion has led to fears the Gov­ern­ment is strug­gling to de­cide as it is wor­ried about mak­ing a “con­tro­ver­sial” choice.

As Court of Ap­peal pres­i­dent, Jus­tice McMurdo is the state’s high­est rank­ing judge while the po­si­tion of Supreme Court chief jus­tice re­mains va­cant. But she was at the cen­tre of the ju­di­ciary’s public rejection of the for­mer New­man gov­ern­ment’s ap­point­ment to the job of Tim Car­mody, who quit af­ter less than a year in the role on July 1.

Jus­tice Jack­son, mean­while, is recog­nised as hav­ing one of the court’s top le­gal minds, but is con­sid­ered to have too con­ser­va­tive a back­ground to be a La­bor ap­point­ment.

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Yvette D’Ath is un­der­stood to have com­pleted her con­sul­ta­tion with the bench and other le­gal bod­ies, and said she re­mained com­mit­ted to fill­ing “this cru­cial po­si­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble”.

She de­clined to dis­cuss the process or tim­ing yesterday – only say­ing she was con­sult­ing widely.

Ian Walker, the Op­po­si­tion’s jus­tice spokesman, said it had been two months since Jus­tice Car­mody re­signed and he had clearly flagged the po­ten­tial for some months prior to that.

“It’s rea­son­able to take time to en­sure proper con­sul­ta­tion ... but peo­ple are rea­son­ably ask­ing what is the de­lay.”

JUS­TICES Cather­ine Holmes and Mar­garet McMurdo are among the top con­tenders for chief jus­tice as the top le­gal job re­mains va­cant two months af­ter con­tro­ver­sial Tim Car­mody’s res­ig­na­tion.

Since Jus­tice Car­mody stepped down, the State Gov­ern­ment’s con­sul­ta­tion with the bench and other bod­ies are un­der­stood to have ended, but the length of time to pick a re­place­ment has started to raise eye­brows.

New­man gov­ern­ment ap­pointee Jus­tice David Jack­son is con­sid­ered in le­gal cir­cles and among the ju­di­ciary as one of the top minds in the court, but could be over­looked due to a per­ceived con­ser­va­tive back­ground.

A de­ci­sion is ex­pected to be made shortly.

The ex­tended con­sul­ta­tion has led to fears the Gov­ern­ment is drag­ging its heels try­ing to avoid mak­ing a “con­tro­ver­sial” choice.

Jus­tice Car­mody stepped down from the chief jus­tice role on July 1, fol­low­ing months of un­rest within the courts over his ap­point­ment, but has re­mained a Supreme Court judge as the Queens­land Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal pres­i­dent.

Jus­tice McMurdo is con­sid­ered among the top con­tenders, though it is un­der­stood the Gov­ern­ment would be ner­vous about ap­point­ing her.

De­spite her high stand­ing within the ju­di­ciary and keen le­gal mind, there could be public con­cern around the way she was linked to the Car­mody fi­asco.

Jus­tice Holmes is said by sev­eral peo­ple within le­gal cir­cles to be the fron­trun­ner.

As well as hav­ing ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence and ca­pa­bil­ity, her ap­point­ment would ad­dress a per­ceived gen­der im­bal­ance within the courts, while she also has a work­ing class back­ground.

She also was on the bench for the Ger­ard Baden-Clay ap­peal, and not Court of Ap­peal Pres­i­dent Mar­garet McMurdo, which was one of the high­est pro­file cases in the state.

Both Jus­tices McMurdo and Holmes have filled the role of act­ing Gover­nor re­cently, while Gover­nor Paul de Jersey is in South Korea on of­fi­cial busi­ness.

Jus­tice McMurdo will re­main act­ing Gover­nor un­til Mr de Jersey re­turns to­mor­row.

Jus­tice Jack­son, as well as

hav­ing the re­spect of the le­gal fra­ter­nity, was “unan­i­mously” put for­ward by Court of Ap­peal judges as a suit­able ap­pointee to the ap­peal court.

One se­nior le­gal source said: “If you’re go­ing to ap­point on merit alone, you would choose David Jack­son, but these things are never cho­sen on merit alone.”

Jus­tices Hugh Fraser and An­the Philip­pi­des were in the run­ning, while Jus­tice James Dou­glas, who has a strong fam­ily history in the ju­di­ciary, is con­sid­ered a dark horse.

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Yvette D’Ath kept close coun­sel on the sub­ject and would not dis­cuss the process or tim­ing yesterday, only stat­ing that she was con­sult­ing widely.

“Un­like the for­mer LNP gov­ern­ment, I will not di­vulge de­tails of con­ver­sa­tions I’m hav­ing in or­der to make my de­ci­sion and to fill this cru­cial po­si­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble,” Ms D’Ath said.

Op­po­si­tion jus­tice spokesman Ian Walker said it had been two months since the chief jus­tice re­signed and he had clearly flagged the poten- tial for some months prior. “This isn’t a de­ci­sion that would have taken them by sur­prise,” Mr Walker said.

“It’s rea­son­able to take time to en­sure proper con­sul­ta­tion ... but peo­ple are rea­son­ably ask­ing what is the de­lay.”

If you’re go­ing to ap­point on merit alone, you would choose David Jack­son, but these things are never cho­sen on merit alone.

A SE­NIOR LE­GAL SOURCE

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 ??  ?? ALL RISE: Jus­tices Mar­garet McMurdo (left) and Cather­ine Holmes (right) are tipped for the chief jus­tice po­si­tion.
Jus­tice David Jack­son
Jus­tice An­the Philip­pi­des
Jus­tice James Dou­glas
ALL RISE: Jus­tices Mar­garet McMurdo (left) and Cather­ine Holmes (right) are tipped for the chief jus­tice po­si­tion. Jus­tice David Jack­son Jus­tice An­the Philip­pi­des Jus­tice James Dou­glas

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