Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Swearing-in of the Hon Justice Peter Applegarth Print E-mail

justice_applegarth_photo.jpgOn 3 September 2008, the Honourable Justice Peter Applegarth was sworn in as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland in the Trial Division during a ceremony in the Banco Court. The Association was represented at the ceremony by the President, Michael Stewart SC, whose address is reproduced below.

As is made clear by the numbers standing behind me the bar wholeheartedly welcomes this appointment, and, I take great pleasure in extending congratulations and best wishes to your Honour.

As a barrister your Honour won a reputation as an intelligent and tenacious advocate who on even the worst of days was a worthy and always honourable adversary. More than most you seemed to put your very heart into your cases. Despite this and the way you sympathized with most of those you represented, these features never seemed to cloud your judgment. Having observed your Honour for some time I am left with the impression that despite the fact that your talents and achievements caused large insurers and media businesses to beat a path to the door of your chambers, you were most comfortable when acting for people and best of all for those who were least able to fend for themselves. Evidence of this came only yesterday when your Honour with evident pride told me how satisfying you had found it that your last appearance in a court had been that mentioned by the Attorney General where you represented a couple who had lost something dear to them.

I endorse the comments of the Chief Justice and of the Attorney General concerning your qualifications which fit you for this important new role. This appointment adds to the high standing of the court.

Though you have spent the majority of your life studying or practicing law your Honour can be seen to be the product of many other influences.

We are always moulded by our parents and siblings but your Honour has enjoyed an especially close bond with your irrepressible mother, Val, your more laconic but equally sage father, Dave and your sister Larelle. All three will be justifiably proud today.

The next influence seems to have been your Honour’s powerful masculinity. When recently your Honour’s wife and three daughters came to choose a new family pet, it clearly was thought that the gender balance in the house was imperfect and a female puppy was chosen. This proved insufficient to balance the scales so that when it was discovered that the family dove was male, this inconvenient fact was simply ignored and it was christened Ruby. All of this shows that your Honour has benefited from a life within a family whose members have completely different interests and who employ a healthy scepticism for your views. Near as these, your closest supporters, are to you and despite your devotion to them, your Honour can count on this advantageous situation persisting.

I have always seen a lot of sense in President Truman’s advice that “you can get a lot done in life if you don’t try to claim the credit” and your Honour seems to embody this approach. One example of this is the way many of the standard opinions and draft submissions used by the volunteers of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties today were prepared by you pro bono without seeking any recognition. Another happened a long time ago but has lasting repercussions for the life of students of the University of Queensland. It was in the seventies and the Senate of the University was called on to decide whether the funding by the student union of a proposed public interest research group fell within the usual objects of a University. The real issue was whether the union could provide funds to mount a political campaign in support of the right to protest. The Senate resolved to approve the proposal but only after it had received what I am assured was a brilliant and spirited submission which persuaded the Chancellor, Mr Justice WB Campbell to use his casting vote to break a 13 all deadlock. The submission argued for freedom of expression and that it was an essential and natural part of the function of a university to engage in debate about broader issues than strictly relevant to student life and became famous. The author of the submission sought no credit for it. He was your Honour. This characteristic suggests a humility or lack of ambition for personal advancement that can only make for a better Judge.

One of the many pleasures that come with occupying my position is the enthusiastic co-operation shown by people consulted for biographical detail to be included in speeches such as this. Your Honour’s case has been no exception. In fact it is unique in that I have had access to the opinions on your Honour’s fitness for office from your life long friend and respected psychiatrist, Dr Peter Hoey. Firstly his view is that while the usual risks to anyone assuming a mantle of responsibility and power lie largely in the direction of increasing megalomania there is little chance of that in your case. Secondly he expressed concern that in pursuing a successful career as a barrister, your Honour has sublimated your true vocation as a double for Bryan Ferry, the lead singer of Roxy Music. Apparently ever since your teenage years you showed an uncanny ability to sing with the precise tone, timbre and insouciance of the man who was surely the most suave of rock stars. Your Honour quickly learned all the lyrics of the songs that made up the album “Country Life” and could have stood in for Mr Ferry at the drop of a hat. Dr Hoey’s concern is that repression of this side of your Honour’s personality may be damaging if allowed to continue and he counsels sessions in which your Honour is encouraged to give full vent to your favourites, “The Thrill of It All” and “These Foolish Things”.

Finally Dr Hoey’s diagnosis is that your strong sense of duty and fairness may predispose your Honour to worrying too much about the cases you must decide. If, on your retirement from this court, that is the worst that can be said of your Honour, the litigants of Queensland will be well satisfied.

Your Honour and your family are entitled to savour this occasion. The bar shares in your enjoyment and in this recognition of this new and most important milestone in your legal career. We wish you very well in this new role.

I also add the Bar’s congratulations to those extended by the Chief Justice to your Honour Justice Atkinson on completing your first decade as a Judge of this court.

May it please the court.

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