The image that kept cropping up in my social media feeds today was an unflattering photo of Madam Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Justice Kavanaugh’s swearing in. The usual comments have been, unflatteringly but not unfairly, along the lines of “she looks like she was taken from a nursing home and is deeply annoyed that this isn’t a visit to IHOP.
This got me thinking about when judges should hang up the boots. Judges on the High Court of Australia are required constitutionally to retire at seventy years as a result of a referendum in the 1970s. This, perhaps, reflects some extremely long judicial careers on the High Court. Longest of all was that of Sir Edward McTiernan. McTiernan was appointed in 1930 and retired (not altogether willingly) in 1976. He was aged 84 years. His judgments were never overly impressive (my impression as a law student was that his most common judgment was the phrase “I concur”), but he still seemed to be active and involved until retirement.
McTiernan J’s career was rivalled by the longevity of Sir George Rich. Rich served from 1913 to 1950 and retired at the age of 87. His judgments, too, are never overly deep. Wikipedia offers the mixed compliment that –
Rich’s judgments are generally considered to be clear and concise. Some commentators attribute this more to laziness than to a knack for clarity.
The same can be said away from the Bench too: I’m sure we can all think of barristers, solicitors and legal academics we’ve known who were, well, past their prime. So my question is: when should lawyers look at calling it a day?
Because it’s Friday, it’s a good time for a lighter post.
I was in the County Court a couple of days this week in a workers compensation matter. The morning of the first day was rather busy. How busy? It was 1pm when I finally had my first cup of coffee of the day (headaches were starting).
There was, however, a consolation. The forecourt of the County Court contains the Octane Coffee stand. It doesn’t look like much, but the coffee is always first class and served quickly. The hot chocolate is a particular highlight: some of the best I’ve ever had in Melbourne.
Because it’s Friday, it’s time for a heart-lifting post.
One of the many perks of being a lawyer is getting to work in some of the most beautiful buildings every constructed. I wanted to stretch my legs this lunchtime and I took some pictures I’d like to share of the heart of the library of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The Supreme Court building itself is beautifully ornate sandstone on the outside. When you get inside it, though, it gets even better. At the very heart of the library is a gorgeously sculpted lamp over a reading desk. I suppose the lamp must have been gas-powered originally.
The part of the building around this area consists of two roughly levels which contain the leading Australian and British law reports and law journals (the Commonwealth Law Reports, the Victorian Reports, the Appeals Cases, the Law Institute Journal and so on). Other series of reports (American, Canadian and so on are elsewhere in the library)
Each of the sections of the floor is lavishly decorated.
A highlight for me are the stained-glass windows at the top of the dome. They contain the small detail of Britain’s lion and unicorn crest and Australia’s kangaroo and emu. I like the notion of showing the place where English law began and where it has now taken root.
I’m as much of a fan of electronic access to information as the next lawyer. Certainly my work would be a great deal harder if I needed to go to the Court every time I wanted to read a case, rather than simply flipping open Austlii. But I think it’s a good thing for any lawyer to head into a library like this one and remind themselves of the proud tradition – and honourable profession – they are part of.