The Legal Career of John Griffin QC
Peter Mylne has provided the following reflection on the lengthy and extraordinary legal career of John Griffin QC:
John obtained qualifications of LL.B (Hons) from the University of Melbourne in 1958 and in 1960 undertook study pursuant to a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Michigan. There, he obtained an LL.M. During his American sojourn, John wrote a piece which was published in the American Journal of Comparative Law and titled “The About Turn: Soviet Law of Inheritance”. In that article, he writes glowingly of the views of Marx and Engel who held the view that there was no place for inheritance in a communist system of government. It would be unnecessary since private property would be extinct. Typically, John’s written argument is difficult to fault. The directors of Clashfern Pty Ltd look forward to the inter vivos dispositions of a number of Queenstown properties.
Upon return to Melbourne, John practised for four years as a solicitor before taking up an appointment in 1968 as Senior Lecturer in Law and subsequently as Associate Professor of Law at the University of Papua New Guinea Law School. He stayed in Papua New Guinea for seven years. The expat lifestyle was in full swing during those times. Lifelong friends were made there including Roger Giles QC, Rob O’Regan QC and Steven Train. Over the last 40 years John has maintained his connection with the country and has appeared in most of the notable cases and enquiries in that country. He was regularly briefed to appear on behalf of the Prime Minister of the day.
The commencement of 1976 saw John come to Brisbane — a city where he barely knew a soul. Through dint of ability and personality he quickly established himself as one of the busiest counsel at the Brisbane bar. In 1977 his text “Criminal Procedure in Papua New Guinea” was published. He took silk in 1984 and has been a member of the Council of the Bar Association of Queensland (1996-2001) and the President of the Medico-Legal Society of Queensland (1986-1988).
Although much of John’s work at the bar has been undertaken in the personal injuries field, he can rightly claim the moniker of a successful all-rounder. During the febrile atmosphere of post-Fitzgerald Queensland, John prosecuted (successfully) the former National party ministers, Geoff Muntz and Brian Austin. Both were cases which, in the context of the time, would have imposed enormous pressures on any Crown Prosecutor. Notable amongst cases in which he appeared is Ahern v The Queen involving the admissibility of evidence of co-conspirators. He has conducted many successful defences in difficult criminal matters.
The 1980’s saw an explosion of litigation involving disputes under the Building Units and Group Titles Act in which John was heavily briefed. During 1991 — 92 he held an appointment as acting judge of the District Court of Queensland.
Achievements in law are one thing; in the more important game of life John has also excelled, surrounding himself with Lois, his extensive family and an eclectic group of friends whose interests range between travel, music, theatre, golf, horse racing, skiing and Friday night poker games. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to have contact with him understands his generosity of spirit and constitutional inability to generate any form of ill will towards others. His collegiality in chambers has been a feature which has always marked Clashfern Chambers and which present members aim to emulate.
 (1988) 165 CLR 87