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Sir Frederick Darley - Sixth Chief Justice of NSW
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Sir Frederick Darley - Sixth Chief Justice of NSW

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Published 2016. Federation Press. Hard Cover.
J M Bennett’s Sir Frederick Darley, the new biography in his acclaimed Lives of the Australian Chief Justices series, describes in fascinating detail one of the most extraordinary episodes in Australian judicial history. In November 1886, the circumstances being unprecedented, New South Wales had three successive Chief Justices. On 4 November Sir James Martin died in office. Attorney-General Want, pressing a false claim to the vacancy, nevertheless declined it. The salary was too low. The great orator W B Dalley, QC, also rejected the position. His health was failing. F M Darley, QC, was immediately approached, but having a large family to support, he also declined. The government turned to Julian Salomons, QC, who accepted and was gazetted. Almost immediately, without taking his seat, he resigned for the extraordinary reasons disclosed in Dr Bennett’s fascinating chapter on the “Phantom Chief Justice”. A perplexed government urged Darley’s reconsideration. He did so reluctantly, serving from 29 November at great financial sacrifice. As the Hon Keith Mason, AC, QC, notes in his insightful foreword, Darley’s reluctance to serve was ultimately “matched only by his reluctance to relinquish the role over 20 years later”. Richly detailed chapters trace Darley’s progression from birth and education in Ireland to Bar practice there at a time when too many lawyers competed for too little work. Darley migrated to Sydney, succeeding beyond his wildest hopes to build a preeminent practice, command a fortune and become a Legislative Councillor. Always regarding Australia as his “adopted country”, he retained his “Irishness” to the end. With characteristic care and precision, the author reviews Darley’s judicial career, his distinguished presidency over the Supreme Court in difficult years, and his work administering the colony on many occasions as Lieutenant-Governor. Darley might well have retired in 1902 when he accepted a place on the English Royal Commission inquiring into the poor military performance in the Boer War. But despite illness, and resistance to social and industrial change, he persevered on the bench until his death in 1910. The product of meticulous research, Sir Frederick Darley paints an illuminating portrait of the life and times of this important man, whose judicial accomplishments and dedication to duty and service won great acclaim and respect. “As with his earlier lives of Chief Justices, John Bennett has provided us with insights into life and customs as well as fascinating snippets of Darley the husband and paterfamilias. A proud Irishman, he is said to have ‘embodied the Victorian era and its values’.” The Hon Keith Mason, AC, QC (from the foreword) The NSW State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir Francis Forbes, Sir James Dowling, Sir Alfred Stephen, Sir James Martin and Sir Frederick Darley is available for $210.00 - to order the NSW State Set, click here. CONTENTS Foreword by the Honourable Keith Mason, AC, QC Acknowledgements List of Illustrations “Dramatis Personae” 1. An “Erratic and Wandering Race” 2. “The Largest Business of Any Man at the Bar” 3. “Active Politics Always Bored Him” 4. Some Lawyers’ Laws and Law Reforms 5. Defence – “The Dawn of Australia as a Nation” 6. Taking Silk: Taking Leave: and Taking Stock 7. (Sir) Julian Salomons: the Phantom Chief Justice 8. “A Great Public Duty” 9. “I Never Aspired to the Bench” 10. Industrial Law – or Politics? 11. Crown Land Legislation – "an unitelligible chaos" 12. Diametrical Opposites 13. Representing the Queen 14. “The Return of the Native” Abbreviations Notes Index Table of Cases Schedule of Parliamentary Bills Table of Statutes REVIEWS Sir Frederick Darley was a prominent barrister, influential Legislative Councillor, Chief Justice of New South Wales, and Lieutenant-Governor. Darley's career has largely been overlooked and underestimated until this exceptional work by the esteemed author and legal historian Dr Bennett. As a member of the Legislative Council, Darley held to high standards in the administration of public affairs. In Chapter 4 of the book, Dr Bennett examines Darley's significant parliamentary contributions and involvement in the field of law reform, including in relation to the rationalisation of the common law/equity 'divide', land laws, trade union laws, and the 'Courts and Judges'. Notably, concerning the latter, "So pressing was the business of the Supreme Court that the lists were jammed and hearings excessively delayed." As such, a "Bill for the Supreme Court Temporary Judge Act Continuation Act" was introduced. The underlying notion of the Bill was that, "If well qualified leaders of the Bar could be induced to act as temporary judges, to clear the backlog and then return to their practices, the court would be disembarrassed and litigants would achieve speedier justice." Darley vigorously opposed the Bill as an affront to the independence of the Court, and dangerous to the due administration of justice. Dr Bennett comments that (Sir) George Innes, himself on the eve of being appointed a Supreme Court Judge, resisted Darley's resort to principle - "Theoretically the Bill might be regarded as evil, but it would not be so great an evil as that suffered by litigants for want of sufficient judges." In this book, Dr Bennett gives us a rare insight into the toll and sacrifice of judicial office. Further, in recounting Darley's work in protecting the authority of the Court itself as an institution, he gives us a unique perspective of the friction and tension that arises between the judicial arm of government and the Executive, as well as between the court and the media. Dr Bennett's work is very well researched and the learned author has clearly had regard to, and carefully considered, a diversity of sources in bringing together this finely detailed book. The legal profession owes Dr Bennett a debt of gratitude for his enormous contribution to judicial biography in Australia.
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