Some of the fraternal feelings among m’learned
friends at the Queensland Bar have been strained by the appointment of a
relatively inexperienced “outsider”, Ann Lyons, to the Supreme
Court.

Though considered generally competent, and thought of as having
the appropriate personal qualities for the bench, Mrs Lyons has little personal
litigation experience – for the past six years she has been president of the
Guardianship and Administration Tribunal.

Her appointment has sparked
such controversy that Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch yesterday
promised to formally consult the legal profession, specifically
the Queensland Bar Association, over future judicial appointments after “lawyers
questioned the qualifications of the state’s newest Supreme Court
judge”.

Now a cynical view would have it that what the Bar was most
concerned about was keeping precious court vacancies for its own, providing as
it does security of income and pension after a lifetime of somewhat uncertain
toil reliant on having a steady stream of briefs coming through the
door.

But that may not be the end of the matter. The sting in the tail of
the appointment was that Ann Lyons is also Mrs Lyons, wife to the President of
the Bar, Peter Lyons.

Given the associations long-held and oft-stated
policy for suitably experience appointees, preferably from the ranks of the bar
– a policy Lyons has advocated publicly – the view in some quarters was that he
would have to stepdown as President.

But in an email sent to association
members this morning, Lyons has given due
consideration to the matter and after heaping great praise upon Mrs Lyons,
announced he will stay on.

That was always likely to be a divisive
decision, but Lyons may have made things worse by criticising comments made at
his wife’s swearing in by Bar Vice-President, Martin Daubney, who basically
reiterated Bar policy.

Daubney had to stand in because Lyons thought it
inappropriate to represent the Bar given that it was all about his
wife.

“I obviously think it was quite an inappropriate speech that
discredited and disparaged the the integrity of the courts and the judiciary,”
Lyons says of Daubney’s remarks.

And that surely places Daubney in an
untenable decision. So, does he now go, or will the association be forced to
choose between them.

Peter Fray

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