Michael John King SC was given a warm welcome as a judge of the District Court by New South Wales Bar President Anna Katzmann on 17 June.
King was counsel assisting the Commissioner at four Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiries and two Police Integrity Commission (PIC) probes between 1991 and 2007. He has also served on the Bar Association’s Professional Conduct Committees.
In a speech peppered with personal anecdotes gathered from King’s colleagues at the Bar, Katzmann traced King’s progress from his childhood in Newcastle, recounting anecdotes from his university days through to his professional life as one of New South Wales’s top barristers.
First, the audience was regaled with King’s impressive culinary skills: “Presumably it was at university that you, like some (but unfortunately not all) young men, acquired some decent cooking skills. I am informed that on a rafting trip down the Katherine River many years later you cooked up a mean goanna in a billy, with sufficient flair to impress those culinary connoisseurs, Ian Barker QC and Tom Pauling QC, now the administrator of the Northern Territory,” Katzmann said.
Next in the firing line, King’s fashion sense: “I need not remind your Honour that the 1970s is infamous for being ‘the decade that style forgot’. Many of us in this courtroom may wince as we remember our own offences against good taste. However, even by the standards of those radical times, your Honour stood out from the crowd. You had a penchant for wearing frilly shirts.
“But it was one thing to wear a frilly shirt with a dinner suit. It was quite another to wear it to the university chess club. Like Cosmo Kramer, though, your Honour was obviously convinced that the puffy shirt was the ‘big new look in men’s’ fashions’, which Kramer dubbed ‘the pirate’,” Katzmann said.
Some more formal details of King’s judicial credentials were also included in the mix. King joined the bar in September 1976 and built his practice from a room on the 9th Floor of Frederick Jordan Chambers, along with Greg James, Malcolm Rammage and Jane Matthews in chambers. He read with Jeffrey Miles, who was later appointed chief judge of the Supreme Court of the ACT.
King also acted for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in a number of lengthy and complex drug trials, including one involving what was then the largest quantity of cocaine ever seized in Australia, where, according to Katzmann, he acquired a reputation as “a fastidious and relentless cross-examiner”.
“No small indiscretion would escape your Honour’s attention. Many a defence barrister had to agonise over whether to call his or her client knowing you were prosecuting,” Katzmann said. “Many will be grateful you decided to accept an appointment.”
The Bar President then invited King to the floor for a right of reply as follows: “By the way, I trust, ladies and gentlemen, that you have ruled out a couple of days in your diaries to hear from his Honour.
“Don’t worry if you don’t catch everything. A transcript will definitely be available.”
Lawyers Weekly eagerly awaits that particular transcript.