Looking at life... from an oblique angle / and I sometimes Twitter (normally only when riled up): @brindafella

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The high and the supreme

I have been thinking recently about those quiet but important people who rise to the top of the law profession.

In Australia, the highest court is the High Court.

Only about two weeks ago, one of its most respected Justices died (not in office). I knew him a little, which is to say I'd met him over a day-long gathering when he had delivered two speeches and we had spoken one-to-one for a while including what amounted to an interview.

Here was a humble man who had been:

- in World War II, a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force and flew a Spitfire in defense of Britain;

- the youngest ever Queen's Council in his state;

- a leading prosecutor;

- Solicitor General for that state (10 years);

- twice, head of the state organisation of his church (Presbyterian, then Uniting) (4 years);

- Justice of the High Court of Australia (10 years);
President of the national organisation of the Uniting Church in Australia (3 years); and,

- President of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Sir Ronald Wilson, AC, KBE, CMG, QC, LL.M, LL.B was highly respected in life. His post-nominal letters indicated not only professional education, but mastery of his profession of law, and recognition for that in society both in his own country and internationally: Commander of the Order of Australia (AC), Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG), Queen's Council (QC) (i.e. Barrister, as well as Solicitor), Master of Laws (LL.M), Bachelor of Laws (LL.B).

He was also a social activist. In this respect, from his early years as an arch prosecutor it seems that he was transformed into his being a fellow-traveller for the under-privileged. This was certainly the case in his nation-wide hearings about the Australian Aboriginal "stolen generation". I can also offer, for instance, that in 2002 he spent much of his time with me discussing his volunteer work, several days a week, teaching refugees to speak English.

I get the impression that, while people who attain these high judicial positions remain true to their roots, they also change. You would have to think that they would: Indeed, that they must.


Here's an article to read about the US Supreme Court nominee, John G. Roberts, Jr.. It's bottom line is, "No one--including Roberts--knows how he'll vote."


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