Valedictory Ceremony – Magistrate Jim Barbeler
May it please the Court.
The reading for this morning’s Valedictory Ceremony for His Honour Magistrate Barbeler is taken from the Exegetical Commentary on the Euterpian Canon of the Venerable Frank Sinatra (revered be his memory on the turntable) — My Way, verses 1 and 2.
And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain.
This heroic prelude defines the event, and heralds the panegyric which is to follow.
My friend, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
We are confronted immediately by the hallmarks of Your Honour’s distinguished career as a barrister — plain speaking advocacy, unswerving adherence to your duties to the Court, your clients, and the Law, and complete confidence in the collegiate camaraderie of the Bar.
I’ve lived a life that’s full
This, of course, is an unsubtly coded reference to the fulfillment of Your Honour’s legal career by appointment to and years of service on this Bench.
I’ve traveled each and every highway
The balladeer displays in this line remarkable prescience, with what can only be allusions to Your Honour’s juristic peregrinations to Petrie, to Warwick, and finally in and around Brisbane.
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
This anthemic leitmotif fixes the listener at an early point with the proposition that every aspect of Your Honour’s long, distinguished and varied career has been marked by absolute propriety and independence.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
Scholars remain divided as to precisely which regrets are referred to here. But two factors point to this not being a reference to Your Honour’s career on the Bench. First, there is the raft of empirical and anecdotal evidence that Your Honour has only ever been held in the highest regard by your judicial colleagues and by those who appeared before you. Secondly, the notion would give rise to an internal inconsistency with the following line, which notes that such regrets are then again, too few to mention. This momentary melancholic indulgence is, however, quickly dispelled by an assertion:
I did what I had to do, And saw it through without exemption
Again, the lyricist has neatly paraphrased Your Honour’s known and demonstrated devotion to public duty, dating back to your early days with the Public Curator and in Crown Law and later as an inaugural member of the Criminal Justice Commission, and your fearless defence of clients when in private practice, including in such high profile matters as the Whisky Au Go-Go trials and the Russell Island Trial. And your term as a magistrate has been characterized by your absolute fair-mindedness in determining the cases before you.
I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway
This is clearly a reference to the careful and reasoned deliberations which Your Honour has brought to all aspects of your career, particularly as a Magistrate.
But more, much more than this
This expansive bridge in the verse reminds us that Your Honour enjoys a life beyond the law. It poignantly wraps in those nearest and dearest to you, particularly your family, and triggers the eschatological avowal:
I did it my way!
And so Your Honour has done.
So endeth the lesson. And almost endeth what we have to say.
And our very best wishes to you and your family as this chapter of your career draws to a close.
May it please the Court.
Martin Daubney S.C.