Hearsay ... the Journal of the Bar Association of Queensland
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Issue 72 - Mar 2015
Book Review: Old Law, New Law: Print E-mail

book_old_law.jpgA Second Australian Legal Miscellany 

 Publisher: The Federation Press
Author: Keith Mason
Reviewed by: Dominic Katter 

Just as Sir Robert Megarry FBA PC authored multiple works as to miscellany (Miscellany-at-law (1955), Arabinesque-at-law (1969), A Second Miscellany-at-Law (1973) and A New Miscellany-At-Law (2005), this book is the second by The Honourable Keith Mason AC ‘collecting, arranging and preserving illustrative stories about Australian law and legal history’.

Old Law, New Law differs from Lawyers Then and Now in that this book generally refers more to ‘legal doctrines and practices’ when consideration is given to the illustrative stories within Australian law.

This is again, like the First Australian Legal Miscellany, an interesting and entertaining book. Detail of footnoting and reference is combined in this work with light-hearted matters of great interest.

The book is divided into five Parts: Men and Women, Essentials of Life, Law’s Ways and Means, Guarding Patches, Public and Private Wrongs.

There is no hesitation in dealing with matters that may be considered controversial, but referencing is relied upon, throughout. Examples of potentially controversial topics include cannibalism (pages 31-33) and Chinese immigration (page 151-152). The topics of the chapters perhaps diminish in controversy as the work progresses.

The table of names in pages 182 to 187 is itself an interesting read: Barwick, Boothby, Dixon, Gleeson, Griffith, Heydon, Isaac, Kirby and Meagher ‘dominate’ the book in terms of the number of references for each.

As with the first text, there is more substance and detail throughout the chapters than the titles potentially suggest. The table of cases on pages 177 to 181 is indicative of the referencing throughout.

The book is perhaps more risqué than Lawyers Then and Now, particularly in Part 1, headed ‘Men and Women’, which includes Chapter 3, “A Little Chapter about Sex”. At the end of that chapter is the following passage:
“Two actresses had been anxious to broadcast their pleasurable encounters with leading lawyers who would later become Chief Justices. … The American actress Connie Stevens … was distracted by … Laurence Street, whom she later described, on the Johnny Carson television show … as ‘so handsome I had a mad crush on him’.

Street’s successor in that office was Murray Gleeson. The Australian actress Kate Fitzpatrick … retained him in [a] defamation [case]. One … witness was Michael McHugh QC [who gave] unchallenged testimony about the plaintiffs’ whereabouts at a critical time. … Fitzpatrick was transfixed by … Gleeson, whom she describes in her Incomplete Memoir as … ‘the sexiest man I’ve ever met’, adding that ‘any women in her right mind would tell you the same’.

[Mason] is searching for similar compliments paid by female suitors to the next two Chief Justices in New South Wales. He is sure that they will eventually turn up.”

Dominic Katter

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