From first lady of La­bor to the bench

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - NICOLA BERKOVIC LE­GAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Fif­teen years ago, Janine Lacy — along with her hus­band, Mark Latham, and their young chil­dren — was one overly firm hand­shake away from The Lodge.

Fol­low­ing La­bor’s crush­ing de­feat in the 2004 elec­tion, which fol­lowed the equally crush­ing hand­shake her hus­band de­liv­ered to prime min­is­ter John Howard on the eve of the poll, Ms Lacy’s life took a dif­fer­ent turn.

The for­mer Lib­eral staffer turned lawyer re­moved her­self from the pub­lic spot­light, even as her hus­band’s as­so­ci­a­tion with the La­bor Party ended in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, and set about carv­ing out a suc­cess­ful ca­reer with the NSW Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions.

On Wed­nes­day, Ms Lacy’s pro­fes­sional ca­reer reached a new height, with the Bere­jik­lian gov­ern­ment an­nounc­ing her as one of eight new mag­is­trates ap­pointed to the NSW Lo­cal Court.

Her as­cen­sion to the state’s bench of mag­is­trates comes six months af­ter Mr Latham’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer was re­vived, when he was elected to the NSW up­per house as a mem­ber for One Na­tion.

It cre­ates an in­trigu­ing po­lit­i­cal and le­gal sce­nario: her hus­band is now in­ti­mately in­volved in the pass­ing of the state’s laws, while Ms Lacy will rule upon them.

NSW At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Mark Speak­man said the new mag­is­trates — six of whom are women — were ap­pointed “fol­low­ing a rig­or­ous merit-based se­lec­tion process”.

He said the po­si­tions were ad­ver­tised and a panel of four — Chief Mag­is­trate Graeme Hen­son and three se­nior le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives — re­viewed the writ­ten ap­pli­ca­tions, in­ter­viewed some of the ap­pli­cants and made rec­om­men­da­tions to Mr Speak­man.

Mr Latham said the gov­ern­ment had not con­tacted him in re­la­tion to the ap­point­ment.

“I love my wife dearly,” he told The Aus­tralian on Wed­nes­day.

“She has earned her po­si­tion on merit and I’m sure she’ll do a fan­tas­tic job. I’ve got ev­ery sin­gle con­fi­dence that the gov­ern­ment has han­dled this pro­fes­sion­ally and prop­erly.

“It has had zero con­tact with me and the chances of swing­ing my vote on any mat­ter, other than on its mer­its, of course, are zero.”

Ms Lacy could not be reached for com­ment, and her pub­lic ut­ter­ances, as they re­late to her hus­band’s colour­ful ca­reer, have been

al­most non-ex­is­tent in the 15 years since Mr Latham left fed­eral par­lia­ment. She was barely seen on the hus­tings when Mr Latham was campaignin­g be­fore the NSW elec­tion in March.

In 2016, she told The Week­end Aus­tralian that her hus­band — who took on the role of stayat-home dad for sev­eral years — had been one of her great­est cham­pi­ons. “Mark has al­ways been an ex­traor­di­nary sup­porter of my en­deav­ours and my ca­reer,” she said.

Asked about some of Mr Latham’s more con­tro­ver­sial skir­mishes, Ms Lacy said her hus­band was “the bravest, most coura­geous per­son I know”.

Ms Lacy was pre­vi­ously the man­ag­ing so­lic­i­tor at the DPP’s Camp­bell­town of­fice, in Syd­ney’s south­west, and was most re­cently deputy so­lic­i­tor of the DPP’s Syd­ney West op­er­a­tions, where she su­per­vised 150 so­lic­i­tors and sup­port staff.

She has ap­peared in the Lo­cal, Chil­dren’s and Dis­trict Courts, with car­riage of a range of crim­i­nal matters. She has also worked as a ca­sual tu­tor in crim­i­nal law at Western Syd­ney Univer­sity.

NICK WIL­SON

Janine Lacy and, be­low, with hus­band Mark Latham, in the lead-up to the 2004 fed­eral elec­tion, the last time she was in the pub­lic spot­light

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