Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Piddington's Picks: Who's up next for the High Court

As the only High Court judge never to have sat on the bench, Piddington is obviously very interested to find out who will replace Justice Michael McHugh, who retires in November 2005. Speculation has already begun in earnest, and Piddington looks forward to keeping his readers informed of all the best rumours.

With regard to Justice McHugh’s recent speech in Perth on October 27, Piddington suspects that it was his (then-impending) 69th birthday which prompted him to reflect on who his successor should be. After declaring that “I very much like women”, it comes as no surprise that McHugh J would very much prefer a woman to follow him in the role, so as to begin to redress the High Court’s gender imbalance.

Piddington also very much likes women, and was glad to hear that the recently-appointed Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant, agrees that there are a great many “extremely competent” female judges on the state and federal courts who would be an ornament to any High Court bench [see the Australian Financial Review, 15 November 2004, p 3].

Women whose names have been mentioned include Justices Carmel McLure and Christine Wheeler of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, and Justices Susan Kenny, Susan Keifel and Catherine Branson from the Federal Court. Other contenders include Chief Justice Marilyn Warren of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Margaret White of the Supreme Court of Queensland, and Justice Ruth McColl of the NSW Court of Appeal.

Of these, Piddington likes Carmel McLure’s chances the best, although it can’t be a good omen that the Australian Financial Review misspelt her name [10 November, p 60].

In later posts, Piddington will survey the male contenders, and will gradually build up a High Court form guide for interested punters. Let the race begin!

If you’ve heard a good story, or if you think there’s a name missing from Piddington’s list of female contenders, e-mail Piddington to let him know.