Thank you for agreeing to speak with Hearsay.
10 Minutes with…the Honourable Justice Philip McMurdo
Justice McMurdo was admitted to the Bar in 1980. Only 12 years later, in 1992, he took silk. His principal area of practice was commercial law, in which sphere he was considered one of the outstanding senior counsel of the 1990s and the early new millennium.
In 2003 his Honour was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. In 2015 he was appointed to the Court of Appeal.
His Honour was a member of the Judges’ Building Committee for the design and construction of the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law Building, which opened in 2012. He was President of the Judicial Conference of Australia from 2012 to 2014. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.
On 9 December 2022, the Attorney General of Queensland announced his Honour would retire on 8 April 2023.
The editor chatted to his Honour.
Thank you for asking me.
You are regarded by many as being a model counsel, and in turn judge, by maintaining constant traits of industry and civility. Is that difficult to sustain?
That’s very generous of whoever said that. I like to think that I was usually polite: I found it the best way to bring out the best from testy judges and later, from nervous advocates.
What is your advice to the Bar – and in particular young counsel – as to the recipe for maintaining such traits?
You have to find your style as an advocate, but keep in mind that your core skill should be to persuade, which is a lot more difficult to do if you are prickly with the judge and rude to your opponent.
Your impending retirement comes short of the “statutory age of senility”. Can you share with Hearsay why you are leaving before time?
I have just reached 20 years and that seemed a good time to go.
You were a longstanding commercial list judge. What were the rigours for a judge sitting and lawyers appearance in important jurisdiction?
I enjoyed that work very much, which I confess was my comfort zone. The jurisdiction is an important one not only for the litigants but the maintenance of the strength of the Queensland commercial bar.
You were a member of the Judges’ Building Committee for the design and construction of the landmark George Street court complex. Did the Committee’s endeavours afford you any particular satisfaction?
I claim no credit for such a wonderful public building. I was just lucky enough to have a front row seat as it was planned, designed and built.
You were President, for two years, of the Judicial Conference of Australia. What is the role that that body plays apropos of the judiciary and the public?
The JCA (now the Australian Judicial Officers Association ) is an essential body to speak for an independent judiciary on occasions where that becomes necessary. It was formed in the early1990s after a Commonwealth AG announced that it was not his duty to do so.
Your wife Margaret is a lawyer, and indeed a former President of the Court of Appeal. Was it hard to avoid “talking shop” during your years of mutual practice?
Yes and No: I was free to talk shop but she did not have to listen.
What is your favourite legal movie, and why?
The Verdict, with Paul Newman as a washed-up ambulance chaser seeking personal and professional redemption as he takes on the dark forces represented by a perfectly cast James Mason.
How will the Courier Mail cope in 2023 with having to champion two Brisbane teams – Broncos and Dolphins – in the NRL competition?
As we have just seen, pretty well and I suspect better than Justice Burns will.
Do you believe Australia will get to the semi-finals in the 2023 World Cup in France, and who do you think will win the competition?
I am a believer, but I think that France should be the favourites.
What do you see as the challenges to the conduct of litigation in the coming decade?
Just keeping the exercise within manageable and affordable limits.
Thanks for speaking to Hearsay. I wish you well in your retirement, whatever form that might take.