Archibald Paull Burt, "reputed to be the ablest lawyer in the West Indies", arrived in Western Australia in 1861 at the age of 50 when bureaucratic disputes blocked his preferment in the Caribbean.He came from a long established family of sugar planters in the Leeward Islands, where he himself was a slave owner for a short time. Educated in England, he was, by the age of 45, a West Indies QC, a Crown Law officer, and active in the legislature of St Kitts.In 1861 he became Civil Commissioner and Chairman of Quarter Sessions at Western Australia, adapting himself and his family to the then isolation of Perth, and finding the climate beneficial to his health. He advised the government on the need for a Supreme Court of comprehensive jurisdiction and helped to see into place that and many other legal and constitutional changes. He was appointed first Chief Justice of the colony and, until his death in 1879, he was the Colony's sole judge.A commanding lawyer and a man of great independence and diligence, well versed in all aspects of colonial administration, he directed the court and the legal profession along English lines, having, at times, spirited differences with some free-thinking members of the Bar who were reluctant to conform. So strong were the foundations on which he set the law and its institutions in the colony that they survived the mischief worked by lesser lawyers who succeeded him in the nineteenth century.The Western Australian State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir Archibald Burt, Sir Henry Wrenfordsley and Sir Alexander Onslow is available for $130.00 - to order the WA State Set, click here.
In 1842, a young Anglo-Irish barrister, finding there were "40 hats on the Munster circuit but not enough work for 20", set sail for the even younger settlement of Melbourne. William Stawell quickly made his mark in the nascent city, becoming Attorney-General within 10 years. He was a leading political figure and Governor Hotham's chief adviser, as the colony moved towards self-government in the heady, unstable prosperity of the gold rush. He was, wrote the Argus, "The Government".The catastrophic treason trials following the Eureka Rebellion should have sent Stawell to political oblivion - but they did not and, soon after, he was elected to the first Victorian Parliament under the new Constitution he had helped to write. A year later, in 1857, he manoeuvred himself into position as the Colony's second Chief Justice, serving with great distinction for almost 30 years.The foreword to this biography comments "as a judge, and Chief Justice, Stawell was ideal for his times". Dr Bennett reveals Stawell as an epitome of Victorian manly virtues: intellect, ambition, energy, bravery, charm, compassion. He shows why detractors would add arrogance, impatience and ruthlessness, and why history sustains the contemporary verdict on Stawell's death in 1889: "one may see in the life now terminated the history of Victoria personified"The Victorian State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir William a'Beckett, Sir William Stawell and George Higinbotham is available for $120.00 - to order the Victorian State Set, click here.
John Pedder, a shy, ascetic, "gentlemanly" personality, was appointed first Chief Justice of Tasmania in 1823. Even he was surprised; he had been only three years in practice. Probably, his loyalty to the Church of England appealed to the Colonial Office.The new Chief Justice was shocked by the cost of living in the convict colony of Van Diemen's Land, the reduced state of society, and the harshness of the dominant penal system. He was acutely conscious of the finality of the death penalty and publicly protested the ill-treatment of Tasmanian Aborigines. In his very first trial, the first held in any Australian Supreme Court, a white man was convicted of the manslaughter of an Aboriginal.Pedder was, Sir Guy Green states in his foreword, "a competent and enlightened trial judge" whose work had a great impact on the everyday life of the colony.He was less successful when confronted by the novel and extremely difficult questions of public law which arose as the rule of law was established and challenged in the small and remote colony. As an Executive Councillor, he was notorious for diffident and ambivalent opinions.Other criticism, that he was a hectoring bully in court, that he "ducked and delayed decisions" in the civil jurisdiction, is shown to be false. His 30 years on the Bench were remarkable for his industry and conscientiousness."a most comprehensive and thorough account of Pedder's life and times [which] makes a significant contribution to the history of Tasmania and Australia generally."Sir Guy GreenThe Tasmanian State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir John Pedder, Sir Valentine Fleming and Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith is available for $130.00 - to order the Tasmanian State Set, click here.
James Cockle was a brilliant mathematician, a future Fellow of the Royal Society, appointed Chief Justice of Queensland in the most stormy and unpromising of circumstances.When he came to Queensland in 1863, relations between the government and A.J.P Lutwyche, the resident Supreme Court Judge, were in a state of turmoil. Lutwyche, whose expectation of promotion to Chief had been dashed, had recently declared Queensland's infant Parliament and all its Acts invalid. The Law Officers in England agreed and Lutwyche continued to attack the government, looking for other legislation to invalidate. The Queensland Government begged the Colonial Office to find a Chief Justice in England and Cockle was appointed.Conciliatory, dignified, scrupulously impartial, and proficient as a lawyer, Cockle calmed the storms left by Lutwyche - and calmed Lutwyche who continued to sit on the bench as junior judge. Yet he was an enigmatic figure who was poorly recognised by Queensland governments. Poorly paid (Lutwyche had the higher salary), he resigned and returned to England and mathematical studies shortly after he qualified for a pension in 1878."He was a rare instance of true human virtue. Jane Austen has taught us that tales of virtue can make absorbing reading. In this account, Dr Bennett has done as much for Sir James Cockle."Justice B H McPhersonThe Queensland State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir James Cockle and Sir Charles Lilley is available for $90.00 - to order the Queensland State Set, click here.
Charles Cooper, a timid, retiring, weak-voiced, sickly and barely successful English barrister, accepted appointment as Judge in South Australia in 1839.A sound rather than a brilliant lawyer, duty was his watchword, evangelical churchmanship his consolation. For 17 years, he trudged on through illness and the meanness of the Colonial Office which saw him one of the worst paid judges on colonial service. In 1856 he was recognized at last with appointment as the Province's first Chief Justice.Dr Bennett shows that the appointment was well merited. In a strong re-evaluation, Cooper is shown to have been a good and effective judge, whose puny modern reputation has been shaped too much by the distorted, politically based, views of critics of his day.His early years on the Bench required him to grapple with the problem of trying to apply English law to the indigenous people. He brought peace to a querulous legal profession and did much to reverse entrenched community contempt for authority existing in Adelaide on his arrival.His workload was enormous. He remained the only judge until 1850 and thereafter he found himself often in collision with the eccentric and irrepressible Benjamin Boothby (appointed puisne judge in 1853). Sick and exhausted, Sir Charles Cooper retired to England on a pension in 1861. There he regained his health and survived to the age of 92, a further 26 years. He had supported the explorations of Charles Sturt who named the legendary Cooper's Creek in his honour.
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Sir Alfred Stephen (1802-1894) reached the pinnacles of conoial life in New South Wales Chief Justice, Lieutenant Governor President of the Legislative Council philanthropist, patron of the arts, he is a textbook example of aspirations and possibilites---and success---in colonial Australia.

Born in St. Kitts. West Indies, and part of the great English legal civil service and literary family that includes Sir Janes Stephen and Virginia Woolf, Alfred Stephen left England for Tasmania in the 1830s. Ambitious and aggressive, he became a pioneer Crown law officer and was astonishingly successful financially, equally tactelelss, he fell out with the authorities and moved to Sydney in 1839 when offered a temporary judgeship.

He found instant success, becoming Chief Justice in 1844 and serving with great distincition until 1873, a term never exceeded in the state. At the same time, he was a central figure in the development of the great pubic institutions which came to dominate Sydney's social and cultural life-among other the University of Sydney, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the NSW Art Gallery and the Australian Museum.

In addition, and despite the difficulty of providing for his many children on a fixed income, he was a great phianthropist. At his death, his funeral procession down Colege Street in Syndey had 120 carriages and extended for half a mile.

Dr John Michael Bennett, A.M. was awarded the 2006 New South Wales History Fellowship to assist in the writing of this biography.

John Bennett's meticulous, detaileld, and illuminating study of Sir Alfred's career and his contribution to law, politics, social reform and Austraian culture and society brings to life the remarkable public contributions of a remarkable man.

This book is essential reading for all those interested in the history of colonial politics and nineteenth century Australian society. Professor Stephen Garton

In this, the thirteenth and most ambitious volume in his series of judicial "lives", John Michael Bennett continues a project he began as a Semor Research Fellow in Law at the Australian National University 40 years ago.

Described by Australian Historical Studies as a series that adds "an important missing dimension in the field of legal history in Australia [and makes] engaging reading". It refelects Dr. Bennett's fastidious research couped with his long experience in professional law practice and in various academic positions.

His extensive publications chiefly in Legal History, but also as a law reporter and sometime Editor-in-Chief of The Australian Digest, have received much recognition and praise. He was twice awarded the C. H. Currey Memorial Fellowship by the State Library of New South Wales; was a Churchill Fellow in 2000 and received the New South Wales History Fellowship 2006 for the writing of this book.

On examination of published works, he has received the rare degrees of Doctor of Laws (Sydney) and Doctor of Letters (A.N.U.), and he is an Honorary Doctor of Letters (Sydney). A Life Member of The New South Wales Bar Association, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for services to the law.
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