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Champion of the bar departs from Federal Court

Champion of the bar departs from Federal Court

Justice Christopher Jessup has stepped down from the Federal Court bench, following more than a decade of judicial service.

Justice Christopher Jessup has been described as a man of “serious intellect and great courage” at a special ceremony to farewell the Federal Court judge from the bench. He was appointed as a judge to the Federal Court of Australia in June 2006.

Speaking at the judge’s farewell ceremony in Melbourne on behalf of the Law Council of Australia, the organisation’s president Fiona McLeod SC said that the very existence of an independent bar was in part thanks to him.

Ms McLeod recalled a period in early ‘90s when Justice Jessup, then a barrister, took a leading role in fending off attacks against barristers. She said his response to press reports on law reform papers and draft laws was “heroic”.

“The proposed legislation was bad, but popular in some quarters. Your Honour marshalled skilful arguments, challenging the assumptions of those who asserted that the bar was uncompetitive and should be regulated out of existence,” Ms McLeod said.

“Many thought the battle was lost, but your honour valiantly persisted – carefully and persuasively making the case for the bar’s existence.

“In the end, through the combined efforts of the bar leadership including your honour, the bar prevailed and survived while others did not,” she said.

Among many of the previous positions in the legal profession that Justice Jessup held prior to his court appointment included stints as chairman of the Victorian Bar Council and various committee roles served with the Victorian Bar and Law Council of Australia.

Justice Jessup practised at the Melbourne Bar for over 30 years and is a renowned industrial law expert. He is a graduate of Monash Law School and obtained a PhD from London University in 1974.

When Justice Jessup was sworn in as Federal Court judge in 2006, then federal treasurer Peter Costello noted his reputation as a motoring enthusiast and respected winemaker. The judge has, for a number of years, owned a vineyard in the Victorian Pyrenees, and in his earlier life was a rally driver.

Back in 2006, Mr Costello said: “You could be seen as a young barrister driving an open sports car through the streets of Melbourne with hat, goggles and gloves; sometimes, I think, a mobile phone plugged in, just for effect.”

“You come from a profession more known for its consumption than production of wine, but you have developed a vineyard in central Victoria which specialises in shiraz, and was recently highly commended by the American wine writer, Robert Parker.”

Reference to the retired judge’s expert drop was also made in his farewell speech, with Ms McLeod describing Justice Jessup as a “judicious expert on wines, especially shiraz”.

“In addition to your honour’s professional learning, experience and intelligence, you are also a man of great integrity,” Ms McLeod said.

“I extend to you the best wishes of the profession for your future.”

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