Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Robert French next High Court chief justice

Justice Robert French is the first West Australian to be appointed Chief Justice of the High Court.

Robert French has been appointed as the new chief justice of the High Court, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced.

He will be the first Western Australian to be the Chief Justice of Australia.

Justice French will take over from Justice Murray Gleeson who is retiring at the end of August.

Mr Rudd has congratulated Justice French on the appointment and has thanked Justice Gleeson for his contribution.

"Justice French brings to this appointment 22 years worth of service on the Federal Court, he is well regarded across the legal profession, he has had a distinguished career so far," he said.

Justice French graduated with a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Australia and practised as a barrister for 11 years before serving three years at the Western Australian bar.

He was appointed to the Federal Court in 1986.

He now also serves part-time on the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says Justice French is seen as a fair-minded judge who has maintained passion for the development of the law.

"He is regarded academically as a lawyer of great expertise ... he is regarded as a constitutional law expert," he said.

"We are confident that he will provide outstanding leadership."

Mr McClelland has described Justice French as a "black letter" lawyer.

"He has written a number of articles commenting on the development and the evolution of the law so he brings to bear an interest in the practical development of the law but in accordance with legal principles," he said.

Mr McClelland would not confirm whether those justices already sitting at the High Court were considered for the role but he says Justice French was chosen from 24 nominations which were drawn from extensive consultation in the legal profession.

However, neither he nor the Prime Minister interviewed Justice French before the appointment.

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