Friday, March 10, 2017

Bennett's latest Australian judicial biography

Federation Press has published Sir Frederick Darley: Sixth Chief Justice of New South Wales 1886-1910 by John Michael Bennett, AM. This is the fifteenth volume in Bennett’s series on judicial lives, a project he began as Senior Research Fellow in Law at the Australian National University four decades ago. From the press:
Sir Frederick DarleyJ M Bennett’s Sir Frederick Darley, the new biography in his acclaimed "Lives of the Australian Chief Justices" series, describes in fascinating detail one of the most extraordinary episodes in Australian judicial history. In November 1886, the circumstances being unprecedented, New South Wales had three successive Chief Justices. 
On 4 November Sir James Martin died in office. Attorney-General Want, pressing a false claim to the vacancy, nevertheless declined it. The salary was too low. The great orator W B Dalley, QC, also rejected the position. His health was failing. F M Darley, QC, was immediately approached, but having a large family to support, he also declined. The government turned to Julian Salomons, QC, who accepted and was gazetted. Almost immediately, without taking his seat, he resigned for the extraordinary reasons disclosed in Dr Bennett’s fascinating chapter on the “Phantom Chief Justice”. A perplexed government urged Darley’s reconsideration. He did so reluctantly, serving from 29 November at great financial sacrifice. As the Hon Keith Mason, AC, QC, notes in his insightful foreword, Darley’s reluctance to serve was ultimately “matched only by his reluctance to relinquish the role over 20 years later”. 
Richly detailed chapters trace Darley’s progression from birth and education in Ireland to Bar practice there at a time when too many lawyers competed for too little work. Darley migrated to Sydney, succeeding beyond his wildest hopes to build a preeminent practice, command a fortune and become a Legislative Councillor. 
Always regarding Australia as his “adopted country”, he retained his “Irishness” to the end. With characteristic care and precision, the author reviews Darley’s judicial career, his distinguished presidency over the Supreme Court in difficult years, and his work administering the colony on many occasions as Lieutenant-Governor. 
Darley might well have retired in 1902 when he accepted a place on the English Royal Commission inquiring into the poor military performance in the Boer War. But despite illness, and resistance to social and industrial change, he persevered on the bench until his death in 1910.
Praise for the book:

“Frederick Darley was a prominent barrister, influential Legislative Councillor, Chief Justice of New South Wales, and Lieutenant-Governor. Darley's career has largely been overlooked and underestimated until this exceptional work by the esteemed author and legal historian Dr Bennett…In this book, Dr Bennett gives us a rare insight into the toll and sacrifice of judicial office. Further, in recounting Darley's work in protecting the authority of the Court itself as an institution, he gives us a unique perspective of the friction and tension that arises between the judicial arm of government and the Executive, as well as between the court and the media.”  -Basem Seif

“Darley became such a successful “economic immigrant” that he was reluctant to sacrifice his large earnings as a barrister for the salary of Chief Justice. (The book contains a cartoon from Bulletin showing Darley about to enter the court, carrying a huge bag labelled “Income 7000 pounds per year”, being met by an attendant who warns him “If you go in there you’ll have to leave at least half of that bundle behind”.) But eventually, after several of his colleagues declined the offer, he was persuaded to accept. He was to prove just
as reluctant to give up the office in the early twentieth century….This book is a worthy addition to J M Bennett’s extraordinary collection of judicial portraits.” –Graham Fricke

Full information is available here.