Honorary awards

The Hon Chief Justice Anthony Murray Gleeson AC

The degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) was conferred upon The Hon Chief Justice Anthony Murray Gleeson at the Law ceremony held on 7 May 1999.

The Hon Chief Justice Anthony Murray Gleeson

The Hon Chief Justice Gleeson, photo, courtesy University Publications.



I have the honour to present the Chief Justice of Australia, the Honourable A. Murray Gleeson AC, for the conferring of the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa).

Murray Gleeson graduated from Law at the University of Sydney in 1962 with First Class Honours, after a distinguished undergraduate program during which he served, among other things, as student editor-in-chief of the Sydney Law Review. Throughout his career, he has continued his association with the University, and, as Chief Justice of New South Wales, he took up the Chairmanship of the Institute of Criminology within the Faculty of Law.

In 1963, Murray Gleeson was called to the Bar of the New South Wales Supreme Court. This was the commencement of a very distinguished career as an advocate, during which he was appointed Queen's Council in 1974.

During his career at the Bar, he was an excellent lawyer, and a prodigious worker. He displayed with especial strength one of the first class advocate's greatest gifts, that of being able to penetrate to the essence of the dispute, to identify the principal point and to persuade judge and opponent that it was indeed the real issue in the case. He was a powerful and economical cross-examiner.

To many of his colleagues, Gleeson was known as "Smiler" because his forensic demeanour was unreservedly dour. He appeared, once battle was joined, to reject absolutely the notion of any but unconditional surrender by the adversary. But, in truth, he had delicate judgment, was always sensitive to his clients' interests, and knew when to recommend compromise. He was, to use a cricketing term, "a good judge of a run".
His colleagues demonstrated their confidence in him by electing him President of the New South Wales Bar Association in 1984. His clients, both lay and professional, admired and respected him. He was popular with the judges because he was always in command of his brief, candid and as brief as the nature of the case permitted; and argued only the good points, of which he always seem to have a plentiful supply. "Smiler" had a sense of humour too. He provided a hilarious opening in the Court of Appeal of one of the more bizarre maritime incidents of recent years in which a yacht at its moorings in the harbour was run down by a restaurant - a floating one, of course.

As Chief Justice of New South Wales, he supported the principle of judicial education, and judicial participation in open discussion of the rules and procedures by which courts function. He was instrumental in appointing the first Media Liaison Officer to the Supreme Court, whose task it was to play a leading role in the way in which the Court system explained itself to the community.
Murray Gleeson served as Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales from 1989 to 1998, and was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in 1992 for services to the law and the Crown. He has developed and retained a special relationship with the English Bar, which was recognised in 1989 by his appointment as an Honorary Master of the Bench in Middle Temple.

In May 1998, he was appointed Chief Justice of Australia, and reaction to his appointment showed that he is held in the highest regard across the political spectrum and throughout the judiciary of Australia.

As a judge, his clarity of mind and expression are outstanding. He is not likely to chase after legal novelty or intellectual fashion for their own sakes; but he has shown that he appreciates very well the need for judicial response to new social ideas and attitudes. He believes in the need for comity and mutual respect between the legislature and the judiciary.

Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting the Honourable Murray Gleeson AC, Chief Justice of Australia, for admission to the Degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) and I invite you to confer the degree upon him.