The former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, last night spoke at a forum gathered to discuss universal ethics and ideals of a justice system.
The Hon. Murray Gleeson AC addressed an audience gathered at the Centre for Universal Ethics and Society in Sydney.
Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen, son of former Governor General Sir Zelman Cowen and Director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization posed questions to Gleeson on the relationship between administration of justice and traditional universal ethics "at the root of the world religions"
"These ethics...have been endorsed by the US Congress as the 'bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization', and similarly by former Australian Governor General Michael Jeffery and were already seen by the Renaissance jurists Hugo Grotius and John Selden as foundational for law," said Cowen.
Gleeson said that universal ethics do and should inform the adjudication of positive law, the actual law made by legislatures.
He noted also that the implementation of the law by courts and by judges was subject to an obligation of legitimacy.
"A stream can't rise higher than its source, and the authority of the judges can't rise above the constitution," said Gleeson, adding that problems of judicial authority in regimes like in Fiji and in Pakistan highlighted the fact that judges had to decide whether to continue to sit in the courts and implement the law.
"Most Australian judges would approach such issues in relation to universal ethics...most judges would say that if they can't apply the law according to their conscious, they would resign," said Gleeson, adding that universal values inform the content and the practical application of positive judge made law as well as statue law.
"Respect for human life, for example, informs the content of the criminal law; respect for human dignity informs sentencing laws."