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‘Giant of the Australian Bar’ mourned

Tributes are flowing for “consummate barrister” David Jackson AM KC, who was — the NSW Chief Justice opined — a “much admired, deeply respected elder statesman” in the barristerial community.

user iconLawyers Weekly 16 May 2023 The Bar

Photo credit: New Chambers

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David Jackson AM KC, who was a founding member and former head of New Chambers (2014–2016), as well as being a leader of the Seventh Floor of Wentworth Chambers (2002–2014), has passed away.

Mr Jackson was called to the Bar in Queensland in 1964 and became a Queen’s counsel (later King’s counsel) in 1976.

Prior to this, the NSW Bar Association detailed in a statement, he was the associate to Sir Harry Gibbs, who then sat on the Supreme Court of Queensland and who would later become the chief justice of the High Court of Australia.


In November 1985, Mr Jackson was appointed to the bench of the Federal Court of Australia, but two years later, in 1987, he resigned and returned to private practice as a silk, where he would remain for 38 years.

He had said repeatedly, the NSW Bar wrote, “that he was only ever most comfortable at the Bar, and he loved appearing in the High Court”.

Chief Justice Andrew Bell of the NSW Supreme Court said that all members of the legal profession would be “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr Jackson’s passing.

“He was the much admired, deeply respected elder statesman of the Australian Bar who continued in his practice, including in the New South Wales Court of Appeal until very recently,” His Honour said.

“David Jackson was a giant of the Australian Bar. With the possible exception of Bret Walker AO SC, no barrister has appeared as frequently in the High Court of Australia as he did.”

“There, he was hugely respected for his consummate professionalism, integrity and legal acumen. Although perhaps best known for his constitutional expertise, he was in truth a generalist. His specialty was advocacy, the art of persuasion,” Bell CJ continued.

“His skill as an appellate advocate was universally admired, and to work with him was an education to any junior counsel in the importance of meticulous preparation, the logical and coherent structuring of submissions and anticipating questions from the bench. His standards were exacting, his courtesy exemplary, and his personality warm and generous.”

New Chambers, based in Sydney’s central business district, reiterated the call that Mr Jackson was a “giant of the Australian Bar”, noting that he was one “who we all loved and respected”.

“Now is not the time to speak about David’s enormous contribution to the development of the law in Australia but suffice to note that he has been at the forefront of leading constitutional cases which have framed the manner in which Australia operates as a society today,” the chambers wrote.

“David, most importantly, was a loving father, grandfather and husband. As members of the New Chambers family, we will provide our support and friendship to his wife Monica and his family.”

Mr Jackson was a “consummate barrister”, NSW Bar wrote, as well as being “a giant whose ineffable robust style of advocacy will be remembered by many”.

“He was one of the finest appellate advocates of his generation,” the member body proclaimed.

“He sat and served on many committees and commissions of inquiry, and his practice spanned every aspect and discipline of the law. In 2007, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the legal profession as a leading practitioner in the fields of constitutional and appellate law, as a contributor to the development of professional organisations associated with the law, and through roles in the area of professional education.”

Keith Wolahan MP, a former combat vet turned barrister turned newly elected Liberal member for Menzies, who spoke on The Lawyers Weekly Show about why he was standing for Parliament ahead of the 2022 federal election, posted the following on his social media accounts:

“Rest In Peace David Jackson AM KC. A giant of the law and our nation’s most skilled appellate advocate. Although extremely unwell, he took the time to make a thoughtful written submission to the recently concluded Voice Referendum Committee,” Mr Wolahan wrote.

Mr Jackson was also generous, Bell CJ went on, in his contribution to the legal profession over many years, especially in the fields of public and constitutional law.

“He was also one of the wittiest after-dinner speakers imaginable, with various speeches at bench and Bar dinners still vivid in the memory decades later,” His Honour mused.

“On behalf of the Supreme Court, I extend my sincerest condolences to his family, including his extended family in New Chambers, where he was the much-loved head of chambers and will be deeply missed. May he rest in peace.”

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