Victorian lawyer Debbie Mortimer SC, who was instrumental in the success of the recent Malaysia High Court decision, has won the 2011 Law Council of Australia President's Medal.
At a dinner reception held last Friday (25 November) at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Law Council president Alexander Ward said Mortimer was the "standout choice" in what was a very competitive field.
"Ms Mortimer has over 23 years' experience in the legal profession - including eight years as a silk - and has practised across a diverse range of disciplines," said Ward.
"She is particularly renowned in the public law sphere and this was on display recently during her role as lead counsel in the applications to the High Court on behalf of Afghani asylum seekers under threat of removal to Malaysia."
Already a well-known advocate, Mortimer shot to even greater prominence earlier this year when she worked alongside refugee lawyer David Manne to successfully have the High Court declare the Government's so-called Malaysia Solution invalid under the Migration Act.
Mortimer has also represented clients in environmental law and Indigenous land rights, and has clients across the government, non-government and pro bono sectors.
Mortimer said she felt honoured and privileged to receive the award.
"When I look at the past winners, I do find it a little hard to conceive of myself in that category," she said in a statement. "It's thrilling, but difficult to come to terms with."
Mortimer joins an esteemed list of eminent lawyers to win the award, including Lex Lasry QC, the Hon. Ted Mullighan QC, Bret Walker SC and Colin McDonald QC.
"Ms Mortimer embodies the very best traits of Australia's legal profession and it was a privilege to present her with the Law Council of Australia Presidents Medal," Ward said.
The Presidents Medal is an annual award, first started by the Law Council of Australia in 2007, recognising an Australian lawyer's outstanding contribution to the legal profession.