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Gageler will bring a ‘wealth of experience’ as High Court CJ, say legal orgs

Legal bodies and organisations across the country have congratulated the new Chief Justice of the High Court and paid tribute to Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC ahead of her retirement.

user iconLauren Croft 24 August 2023 Big Law
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This week (22 August), Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus appointed the 14th Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia: Justice Stephen Gageler AC.

As reported by Lawyers Weekly in mid-June, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC – the first woman to be appointed as High Court Chief Justice – will be retiring before the constitutionally mandated age of 70. Her Honour will depart the court on 5 November, with Gageler J – a Commonwealth Solicitor-General – officially commencing his new role on 6 November.

Shortly after the announcement, the legal profession paid tribute to the outgoing CJ, labelling Her Honour an “outstanding jurist” and “exceptional leader”.


His Honour was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of NSW in 1989 and was appointed senior counsel in 2000.

The Honourable Justice Robert Beech-Jones has also been appointed as a Justice of the High Court of Australia and will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Justice Gageler.

Legal bodies across the country have welcomed the new appointments.

Damien O’Brien KC, president of the Queensland Bar Association, said he was “pleased to advise members” of the new appointments and congratulated each of the judges on their new appointments.

Additionally, the ACT Bar Association said it was “delighted” with the news and thanked Chief Justice Kiefel for “her service and leadership” within the High Court. The ACT Bar also noted that both Justice Gageler and Justice Beech-Jones are graduates of the Australian National University in Canberra.

The Law Society of Western Australia congratulated Gageler J via their social media channels.

“Justice Gageler is the most senior justice of the High Court after Chief Justice Kiefel. He joined the High Court in 2012, having served as the Commonwealth Solicitor-General prior to his appointment,” the society stated.

The Law Council also welcomed the appointments and commended the Commonwealth government “on their selections and the vigorous consultation undertaken”.

“Justice Gageler has served our community with distinction as a justice of the High Court since 2012, as has Justice Beech-Jones on the Supreme Court of New South Wales. On behalf of the profession, I congratulate Justice Gageler and Justice Beech-Jones on their elevations,” Law Council of Australia president Luke Murphy said.

“I also pay my respects and thanks to Chief Justice Kiefel for her outstanding service. Chief Justice Kiefel is a highly respected jurist who has been an exceptional leader of the nation’s highest court and an unwavering supporter of the Australian legal profession. We wish her well for the future.”

President of the Law Society of NSW Cassandra Banks said the two widely respected jurists bring the experience of storied careers in the law to their new roles.

“Chief Justice designate Gageler has earned a reputation as having an unequalled knowledge and understanding of constitutional law, an expertise that was sharpened before and during his term as Solicitor-General of Australia,” she said.

“Justice Beech-Jones has provided extraordinary service to the law in NSW, commencing practice as a solicitor in Sydney for the firm now known as Freehills, before being called to the Bar in 1992. His Honour’s appointment to the High Court of Australia, to replace the vacancy left by Justice Gageler’s elevation, will enhance Australia’s system of justice.”

Gageler J’s appointment, president of the NSW Bar Association Gabrielle Bashir SC said, is “both welcome and universally lauded by the profession”.

“Justice Gageler’s exceptional ability and unique standing for appointment to this position is evidenced throughout the Commonwealth Law Reports. His exceptional ability as a jurist across all fields of law and his deep humanity are evident to all who have had the privilege of appearing before His Honour and knowing him.”

“Justice Beech-Jones’ appointment to the High Court is due recognition of his highly respected contributions on the Supreme Court of New South Wales and most recently as Chief Judge of the common law division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and as a judge of appeal. Justice Beech-Jones is widely respected among the profession as an outstanding jurist and brings a wealth of trial and appellate experience to the High Court,” she said.

“The Bar Association also congratulates and thanks Chief Justice Kiefel for her extraordinary service as Chief Justice of the High Court since 2017. She has been a pioneer in so many respects and will be rightly remembered for the clarity of her judgments, ability to unify the court on matters of previously contested principle in a manner that gave clear guidance to trial courts, and progressive leadership of the High Court.”

Chief Justice of NSW Andrew Bell added that “the Supreme Court of New South Wales warmly welcomes” the appointments – and said that “both judges are universally admired and respected for their outstanding legal ability, the quality of their judgments, their integrity and humility, and strong sense of public service”.

“Of Chief Justice-elect Gageler, it may fairly be said that there is no practising lawyer in this country with a deeper knowledge of the Australian Constitution. Further, over many years as a barrister, Solicitor-General and, for the last 11 years, as a justice of the High Court, he has commanded profound admiration within the legal profession and the Australian judiciary for his mastery of both public and private law. The clarity of his judgments is exceptional,” he said.

“I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution Justice Beech-Jones has made to the Supreme Court of New South Wales since his appointment in March 2012 at the age of 46. His Honour has led the common law division with great skill and energy, and contributed in a very real way to the high reputation and strong collegiality of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His colleagues will miss him greatly but have every confidence that he will take his very fine attributes as a lawyer and a person to the High Court.

“The Supreme Court congratulates both Chief Justice-elect Gageler and Justice Beech-Jones and wishes them well as they take up their new appointments. A special sitting to farewell Justice Beech-Jones from the Supreme Court of New South Wales will be held on 19 October 2023.”

Finally, in welcoming both appointments, the president of the Victorian Bar, Sam Hay KC, noted it was fitting that Justice Gageler assume the role of Chief Justice.

“On behalf of the Victorian Bar, I congratulate Justice Gageler and Justice Beech-Jones on their well-deserved appointments. Justice Gageler will doubtlessly thrive in his role, just as has he did as a barrister, then Commonwealth Solicitor-General, and then High Court justice,” he said.

“Justice Beech-Jones is a renowned jurist who will bring a very wide breadth of experience to Australia’s apex court. I wish both justices the very best in their new roles. I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to Chief Justice Kiefel for her excellent service to the nation as Chief Justice. She has been an outstanding jurist, and I wish her well for the future.”

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