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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