Murray Gleeson - the Smiler

Murray Gleeson - the Smiler

Hardback

By (author) Michael Pelly

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  • Publisher: Federation Press
  • Format: Hardback | 296 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 241mm x 23mm | 606g
  • Publication date: 15 May 2014
  • Publication City/Country: Annandale, NSW
  • ISBN 10: 1862879605
  • ISBN 13: 9781862879607
  • Sales rank: 122,887

Product description

Courtroom tactician, devastating in reply, intimidating and intense. Murray Gleeson has been described as many things, but his grim work persona gave him the label that stuck - The Smiler. Born in a small country town in NSW, Gleeson became the nation's top barrister and its leading judge. In a legal career spanning over 50 years, he had a ringside seat for political, legal and social events that shaped Australia - the final separation from Mother England, legalised abortion, the dismissal of the Whitlam government, the Tasmanian Dams Case, the Fine Cotton substitution, the scandalous attack on Justice Michael Kirby, the war on terrorism, prisoners' right to vote and the detention of refugees. The Smiler draws on more than 100 interviews with the man himself and his family, friends and judicial colleagues, including those who sat with him on the High Court. It is an unprecedented insight into a legend of the Australian legal system.

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Author information

Michael Pelly (LLM: UNSW) is a journalist with over 30 years experience who has held senior writing and editing positions at Fairfax and News Ltd. He is now a columnist for The Australian. He has also been an adviser to state and federal attorneys-general. This is his first book.

Review quote

"... Pelly surveys over half a century of Australian legal history through the lens of his subject, and there is much here to interest anyone curious about our system's inner workings. Refreshingly, Gleeson is also shown in some depth as a husband and father, albeit one who, when adjudicating a dispute between his young children, announced: "Well, provocation's an adequate defence" (p.64). The book takes Gleeson's drive to succeed as something of a theme and duly ends by quoting the subject saying, simply, "I like to win" (p.267)." Read full review... - Sarah Burnside, Australian Journal of Politics and History, March 2015 "Biographies of judges are almost as often mired in languor as their autobiographical cousins. But there are exceptions. Michael Pelly provides the proof. He has never been a judge, though he has a postgraduate degree in law. Rather, he is an experienced journalist. And he can write - very well. Nevertheless, he has taken on a hazardous task. He has attempted the biography of a man who was not only a judge but of whom a judicial colleague (Justice Roderick Meagher, of the New South Wales Court of Appeal) has said, not altogether in jest, that 'he never utters an unnecessary word. He has written nothing outside his professional work. He takes no interest in either music or art. He does, however, like flowers. He stares at them to make them wilt.' Drama comes frequently to courtrooms. It is, generally speaking, an uncommon inhabitant of the chambers in which the bulk of judicial work is undertaken. When it does occur, however, it is the chief justice to whom all look for remedial action. In Gleeson's time, a retired bisexual judge committed suicide after being accused (probably without foundation) of paedophilia; and another was accused (with undoubted falsity) of using a government car to assist in homosexual meetings. Pelly treats each instance with candour and tact. This is a biography about a complex and talented man who in his time significantly influenced the direction of his country. It deserves a wide and general readership." Read full review... - David Harper QC, Australian Book Review, Jan-Feb 2015 "Roddy Meagher, a brother judge, was overheard to say that Murray takes no interest in music or art. He does, however, like flowers; he glares at them until they wilt. This is an engaging biography. ... the dramas and behind-the-scenes details I lapped up." Read full review... - Clive Hodges, Good Reading, October 2014 "It was with great foresight that the grandfather of 4-year-old Murray Gleeson entreated the boy to be like Bill Dovey QC rather than "be the Pope". Apart from a powerful suggestion, that may have been lost on one so young, what were the forces that shaped Murray Gleeson to become Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia? Pelly is cursory in his exploration of Gleeson's early years and the book really focuses on his life at university and his ascension through the "galaxy of talent" to be the Chief Justice of the High Court. Pelly gives some insight into the young Murray Gleeson who would share time with his father visiting livestock sales, listening to the horse races, and boxing fights on the radio. Gleeson was bookish from an early age with his mother describing him as "a very serious boy". This informs the tone of this biography and explains a character that sidelined his sense of humour in favour of strict measure, rigor, hard work, and austerity. A person who is said to have made a bereavement counselor look happy. It will come as no surprise to readers that Murray Gleeson had a practice in tax law. Pelly's book contains much analysis of the forces that changed the law and the preeminent role that Murray Gleeson played in those changes. It is a biography about a lawyer written for lawyers." - Queensland Law Reporter - 26 September 2014 - (2014] 37 QLR "The book's style is informative, insightful and entertaining. It is difficult to do it justice in a brief review such as this. A great deal of detail is provided in relation to key events, so that readers come away from the book with a sense that they have come to know something substantial of the personality, the humour and the intellect of its subject. In achieving this, Pelly has achieved an excellent legal biography." Read full review... - Douglas J James, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, September 2014 "Despite appearances, this is not a book for lawyers about a lawyer. That virtue stems from Pelly's ability to distil accurately the facts and principles of complex litigation with brevity so that they serve, not dominate, his account. It is also the characters at play that frequently provide the colour: a cast of lawyers, politicians, rogues and celebrities, such as actress Kate Fitzpatrick, who memorably described Gleeson as "the sexiest man I ever met". Gleeson thought her taste "discerning". The feature that recurs throughout the book is Gleeson's brilliance. The biography is the catalogue of a penetrating intellect, and Pelly's engaging and accessible account delivers an insight into the man." Read full review... - Benjamin Dighton, The Australian, 6 September 2014 "... an impressive and welcome addition to the canon of Australian judicial biography." - Andrew Lynch, The Australasian Study of Parliament Group, September 2014 "Pelly has organised The Smiler in a very readable way, moving through the account of Gleeson's life and career prior to taking judicial office in a simple chronological fashion. The period after Gleeson was appointed Chief Justice of NSW, and particularly Chief Justice of Australia, is handled in a more thematic fashion. There are individual chapters dedicated to the High Court's work in constitutional law, criminal law, negligence and immigration matters, as well as to Gleeson's extra-curial speeches. ... What becomes clear in the discussion of the cases in which Gleeson sat, is that his judgments - always written in an economical, almost sparse, style - have remained influential, even if they did not command support from a majority in the case itself. ... [a] wonderfully researched and presented book. ... Pelly has produced an informative and very enjoyable account of the life and career of an Australian legal giant." - Greg Weeks, Australian Journal of Administrative Law, August 2014 "Murray Gleeson is not the sexiest man I ever met. However, he is the dominant counsel and judge of our age, and Michael Pelly's account should be read for this alone. Pelly starts at the beginning. On page one, Gleeson's maternal grandfather is asking the three-year-old what he wants to be. "I'm going to be the Pope." Better off being Bill Dovey, the Free Presbyterian retorts. And so we have one topic and one theme which have run on through Gleeson's life." Read review... - David Ash, Francis Forbes Society, Australian Legal History, May 2014 "The work provides full biographical details of Murray Gleeson's life although, appropriately, it concentrates on his career as a barrister and his role as the Chief Justice of the High Court. The author has drawn on various interviews with over 100 of Mr Gleeson's family, friends and colleagues (including former High Court judges) from which he relays numerous interesting anecdotes. Although it is a work which is written from a journalist's point of view and capable of being read and appreciated by non-lawyers, it holds much interest for those legally trained. In particular, it provides substantial insights into the workings of the High Court during Gleeson's stewardship and the interpersonal relationships of the members of the Court over that time. The work is interesting for the discussion of the manner in which Mr Gleeson was "interviewed" for the position as Chief Justice of the High Court and whether or not Mr Gleeson was aware at the time that he was being so interviewed. It also identifies the practice of the former Commonwealth Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams to interview prospective appointees to the High Court and the types of questions which were asked on that occasion. This aspect has attracted substantial media interest in the past week or so." - Queensland Law Reporter - 30 May 2014 - [2014] 20 QLR

Table of contents

1. Early Life 2. Leaving Home 3. The Rise of Leo... and Murray 4. The University Years 5. Learning the Law 6. On the Job 7. A Partner for Life 8. Stress Takes Its Toll 9. No Looking Back 10. Faith and Fidelity 11. Ritual and Routine 12. From the Bottom of the Harbour 13. Breaking Away 14. A Party Man? 15. In the Limelight 16. In the Backroom 17. Get Gleeson 18. The Sexiest Man I Ever Met 19. An Extinct Argument 20. Blink and Miss 21. Follow the Leader 22. The Smiler 23. To the Bench 24. Street's Red Hot Potato 25. Getting Down to Business 26. Sitting in Judgment 27. No Limit to Evil 28. Speaking his Mind 29. On High 30. A Helping Hand 31. The Home Front 32. Settling In 33. High and Mighty 34. The PR Guy 35. The Vibe 36. A Liberal in Disguise? 37. Murderers and Terrorists 38. Who's Responsible? 39. A Court Scandalised 40. Still in the Game