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‘Attacks’ on new ALRC president ‘misconceived’ and ‘unfair’, say senior judges

The Federal Court Chief Justice, Australian Judicial Officers Association, and Law Council have slammed “ill-informed” media coverage in the wake of Justice Mordy Bromberg’s appointment as the new president of the Australian Law Reform Commission.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 27 June 2023 The Bar
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As reported last week by Lawyers Weekly, Justice Mordecai “Mordy” Bromberg, who has been a judge of the Federal Court since 2009, has been chosen as the new ALRC president and will serve a five-year term commencing on 10 July.

At the time, the A-G’s Department detailed that His Honour has “significant experience” experience in the leadership of legal research and expertise across a broad range of practice areas, including industrial law, personal injuries, commercial law, product liability, constitutional law, administrative law, and trade practices.

On Friday (23 June), Chief Justice Debra Mortimer of the Federal Court issued a statement, labelling “some” of the media coverage surrounding Bromberg J’s appointment as “ill-informed”.

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Various media outlets, in the days following the announcement, published stories reporting the overturning of certain judgments issued by Bromberg J, as well as noting His Honour’s one-time candidacy for preselection for Labor in a Melbourne-based electorate two decades ago.

“As a judge of the Federal Court for the past 14 years, Justice Bromberg has provided dedicated, careful and hard-working public service to the Australian community. He is respected amongst his colleagues and the wider legal profession as a fair and highly capable judge,” Mortimer CJ proclaimed.

“His judgments always repay careful reading, are often cited and reveal the application of a keen intellect to the judicial task. The court rejects out of hand any idea that Justice Bromberg has not at all times discharged his office in accordance with his judicial oath and likewise emphatically deprecates the insinuation to the contrary.”

“That His Honour has been reversed on appeal is something which happens to every trial judge in the course of their career,” Her Honour argued.

“The suggestion that mere reversal signifies anything about the competence of the trial judge subject to the appeal is as misconceived as it is unfair.”

The Australian Judicial Officers Association (AJOA) — a professional association of judges and magistrates in Australia — acknowledged the vital role of the media in reporting on and providing commentary about the work of the courts and judges but said that “this does not give the media licence to denigrate the work of judges, or to engage in personal and unwarranted attacks on members of the judiciary where those attacks arise out of the exercise of their judicial function”.

It should be borne in mind, AJOA noted, that judges cannot respond.

“Justice Bromberg is a senior and very experienced member of the Federal Court of Australia who, over his 14 years on the bench, has been called upon to decide many complex cases, some of which have been the subject of substantial public interest. The exercise of the judicial function in applying legal principle to the facts of each case is sometimes controversial, and is often difficult,” posited Justice Michael Walton of the Supreme Court of NSW, who is the president of AJOA.

“The fact that members of the community may have different opinions about the manner in which judges undertake this task, and that their decisions may sometimes be unpopular in the eyes of some in the community, provides no sound basis to question their integrity or suitability for office. Likewise, that judges may be overturned on appeal is an ordinary and essential feature of the legal system at work; it is an experience of which all judges are familiar.”

The Law Council of Australia also weighed in, saying it “strongly supports” the statements made by Mortimer CJ.

“The Law Council echoes Chief Justice Mortimer’s remarks that, for more than a decade, Justice Bromberg has served the Australian community commendably as a highly respected, fair-minded and dedicated member of the Federal Court,” the LCA wrote.

“Attacking Justice Bromberg’s independence, impartiality and competence is not only unfair and unwarranted on a personal basis, it also erodes public confidence in the judiciary and undermines the rule of law more generally”, LCA president Luke Murphy added.

“Such media coverage further diminishes the essential role that the ALRC plays in delivering well-informed, balanced and comprehensive recommendations regarding the development of future law reform in Australia,” the LCA concluded.

In response to questioning from Lawyers Weekly about the media reports the statements were referencing, the LCA responded that its own statement was in response to “all stories that attacked Justice Bromberg”.

Lawyers Weekly does not suggest that stories published by other media outlets constitute attacks on His Honour.

Elsewhere, the Law Institute of Victoria and Victorian Bar issued a joint statement congratulating Bromberg J, lauding what the organisations called His Honour’s “long and distinguished career” on the bench of the Federal Court.

“He has brought rigour and care to the consideration of some of the most complex and difficult cases that have come before the Federal Court. His Honour has at all times approached his role with the independence and fairness that is in the best traditions of the judiciary,” the organisations outlined.

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is the editor of Lawyers Weekly. A former lawyer, he has worked at Momentum Media as a journalist on Lawyers Weekly since February 2018, and has served as editor since March 2022. He is also the host of all five shows under The Lawyers Weekly Podcast Network, and has overseen the brand's audio medium growth from 4,000 downloads per month to over 60,000 downloads per month, making The Lawyers Weekly Show the most popular industry-specific podcast in Australia. Jerome is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, and a board director of Minds Count.

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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