Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman has acknowledged the valuable contribution to Queensland’s justice system of Supreme Court Justice Phillip McMurdo who has advised he will retire in 2023.
Minister Fentiman said Justice McMurdo had demonstrated a life-long commitment to the law, the profession and educating the next generation of practitioners in a career spanning more than 45 years, including nearly two decades on the bench.
“His Honour has been a strong defender of the courts and judicial independence, and is acknowledged as being collegiate and of the utmost integrity and honesty among his fellow judges and the wider legal profession,” Ms Fentiman said.
“Appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 27 February 2003, His Honour brought his vast courtroom experience to the bench.
“His Honour was in charge of the court’s Supervised Case List from 2003 to 2007, then sat on Commercial List matters as well as hearing criminal and other civil cases until his appointment to the Court of Appeal in 2015.
“His Honour’s elevation to the appellate court created Queensland legal history. With his wife Margaret serving as President of that court, they became the first married couple to simultaneously hold commissions in the jurisdiction at the same time, though they never sat on the same matter to avoid any apprehension of bias.”
Minister Fentiman said Justice McMurdo served as President of the Judicial Conference of Australia and two three-year terms as a part-time member of the Law Reform Commission from 1995 to 2001.
“During this time the commission considered important legal issues relating to wills, limitations law, the giving of evidence by children in our justice system, the role of Justices of the Peace and young people’s consent to health care.
“His Honour assisted the commission’s important examination of the need for a scheme to assist people in Queensland who had impaired decision-making ability.
“This resulted in an enhanced guardianship system including establishment of the Office of the Public Advocate and then Office of the Adult Guardian.”
Justice McMurdo’s legal career began when he was admitted as a solicitor in 1977 after completing degrees in commerce and law at the University of Queensland, before being called to the bar.
“In private practice, His Honour was a busy and successful counsel, specialising in commercial work, administrative and intellectual property law,” Minister Fentiman said.
“He handled some of the most difficult and complex briefs and his expertise was recognised in 1992 when he was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
“During his time at the bar, His Honour served as a member of the Bar Council, was a director of Barristers Chambers Limited and lectured in law part-time at the Queensland University of Technology.
“He was also a member of the Supreme Court Library Committee from 1998 to 2003, before becoming chair of the committee when at the bench in 2019.”
Minister Fentiman said Justice McMurdo would also leave a visible legacy, having been a member of the Judges’ Building Committee for the design and construction of the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law building, which became the new home of the Supreme, District and Land courts in Brisbane when it opened in 2012.
“Legal minds of the calibre of Justice McMurdo enhance the community’s confidence in our legal system and I thank him on behalf of all Queenslanders for his dedication to helping them obtain access to justice,” she said.
Justice McMurdo will officially retire on 8 April 2023.