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Heydon the dissenter on HC

Heydon the dissenter on HC

A study of High Court decisions in 2010 has shown that Justice Dyson Heydon is the most likely to disagree with his colleagues.Leading legal academics Dr Andrew Lynch and Professor George…

A study of High Court decisions in 2010 has shown that Justice Dyson Heydon is the most likely to disagree with his colleagues.

Leading legal academics Dr Andrew Lynch and Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law analysed all 48 High Court decisions decided by three to seven members of the bench last year.

Their study showed that Justice Heydon dissented from the result on 15 per cent of cases on which he sat,

ahead of Justices Susan Kiefel (10 per cent) and Kenneth Hayne (5 per cent). The study revealed that the total amount of cases featuring formal dissent dropped to just under 19 per cent in 2010 from 23 per cent in 2009.

Overall, the High Court bench reached a unanimous judgment in 24 of 48 matters, the highest rate of agreement in 30 years according to the study.

This rate of dissent in the first two years that the High Court has been under the stewardship of Chief Justice French is in stark contract to the stewardship of Chief Justice Murray Gleeson between 1998 to 2008.

Williams and Lynch found that for most of that era, the High Court was divided as to final orders on nearly half of all cases.

"To an even greater extent in 2010, the French court has been able to achieve a level of agreement across the whole body of its workload that is unprecedented for the modern High Court," the report said. "It may be that watchers of the Court would have to turn back to the very first High Court of the early 1900's to find a similar level of agreement."

Only one full-bench matter saw a 4-3 split, and that was in the case of Rowe vs Electoral Commissioner that dealt with voter enrolment in federal elections.

The study also found that there were three unanimous opinions in constitutional law cases, an area where agreement is notoriously rare.

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