STATE’S JUSTICE FOR THE PEACE
New chief justice to end year of drama
QUEENSLAND’S judicial crisis has been ended by the appointment of its first female Supreme Court chief justice.
Justice Catherine Holmes – the daughter of a labourer and graduate of Oxley State High School – will replace controversial Newman government appointee Tim Carmody, who resigned in July after a troubled 12 months.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Justice Holmes was a “qualified ... highly regarded professional” who would bring “stability, integrity and provide vital leadership” to the courts.
“She will bring with her public confidence,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “That is what Queensland needs.”
Former judges, top silks and the state’s professional legal bodies lined up last night to praise her appointment – a very different response to when Justice Carmody was sworn in last year by Justice Holmes in a ceremony boycotted by most other judges.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said none of the judges considered qualified were ruled out of consideration.
But it is understood the Government was concerned about the potential for a backlash if they appointed any of the judges who waged the anti-Carmody campaign.
Shadow attorney-general Ian Walker said he had the “utmost respect” for Justice Holmes, one of the longestserving of the current Supreme Court judges, who has served for 15 years on the bench and almost 10 years in the Court of Appeal.
THE controversy that engulfed Queensland’s courts for the past 12 months is over following the appointment of Justice Catherine Holmes as the state’s first female chief justice.
Former judges, top silks and professional bodies have all deemed the appointment “uncontroversial” while praising her legal acumen.
Justice Holmes, 58, was never linked to the campaign against former chief justice Tim Carmody, whose appointment sparked unprecedented unrest within the Supreme Court.
The Courier-Mail first revealed Justice Holmes was firming as the favourite for the role in July, just days after Justice Carmody’s resignation, and again revealed her as the frontrunner last week.
Having served 15 years on the bench and almost 10 years in the Court of Appeal, she is one of the longest serving current Supreme Court judges.
As well as being respected within the judiciary, legal sources said Justice Holmes had a working class background which would resonate well with Labor.
The daughter of a labourer, she was schooled at the Catholic Our Lady of Sacred Heart College, Corinda, and then Oxley State High School.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath stressed the respect held for Justice Holmes by the judiciary and profession.
“She is widely respected by the legal profession and the judiciary and brings tenacity, strength and a wealth of knowledge to this important role,” she said. “Justice Holmes will bring stability, in- tegrity and provide vital leadership.”
Justice Margaret McMurdo, who was linked to controversy surrounding Justice Carmody, was said to be in contention for the top job, but it is understood there were concerns surrounding public reaction. But Ms D’Ath said no one was ruled out from consideration.
While Justice Holmes headed the first Commission of Inquiry into the floods, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk played down any impact the findings from the second inquiry would have on the new chief justice as they had different terms of reference.
Others in the legal community said they would be surprised if the second inquiry into the floods, headed by Walter Sofronoff, QC, made any adverse findings regarding Justice Holmes’ inquiry.
Former Supreme Court judge Justice James Thomas, who sat on Court of Appeal cases with Justice Holmes, said it was a safe choice.
Bar Association of Queensland president Shane Doyle said she had the support of the Bar.
Queensland Law Society president Michael Fitzgerald said her appointment as Queensland’s first female chief justice would be welcomed, particularly as nearly half the state’s practising solicitors were women. “I’ve no doubt that 47 per cent of my members will be inspired by the appointment of the first female chief justice,” he said.
Prominent criminal lawyer Bill Potts said Justice Holmes would increase the respect the public had for the courts.