Resignation of Bar Council member
On Thursday 12 November 2020, Simon Marks QC announced his intention to resign from Bar Council. The resignation took effect on 13 November, when written notice was received, thus creating a casual vacancy on Bar Council.
On 14 November, as required by clause 43.1 of the Constitution, I contacted the person who had received the highest number of votes among the unsuccessful applicants in Category A and invited that person to fill the casual vacancy. On 15 November that invitation was declined.
The Executive of the Bar Council obtained the advice of The Hon. Susan Crennan AC QC in respect of the proper procedure to follow under the Constitution in the circumstances. At last night's meeting, the Bar Council resolved to accept that advice.
As a consequence, it will be necessary to conduct a by-election pursuant to clause 43.3 of the Constitution, so that a member can be elected to fill the vacancy. The Bar Council has resolved to hold that by-election immediately. I anticipate details will be provided on Monday.
Bar Council Meeting 19 November 2020
Last night was the first working meeting of the new Bar Council and there was a busy agenda. Prominent was consideration of the Nous report.
By a unanimous vote, the Bar Council determined to revoke the acceptance of large parts of the report by the previous Bar Council. Matters pertaining to the Readers' Course will thus remain in the control of the Readers' Course Committee under the very capable control of Dr Sue McNicol AM QC and Eugene Wheelahan QC.
A new Education Sub-committee has been formed to be chaired by Eugene Wheelahan QC. It will further review the Nous report. It will also consider the many wonderful submissions made by members of the Bar in relation to this issue. The aim will be to utilise all this information and liaise with other relevant committees to improve the Bar's educational offerings.
We have formed a 'Return to Court' working party to advocate for the re-opening of courts and the return of face-to-face hearings as soon as possible. We understand the difficulties, but also that this is a matter of real priority for many members whose practices have suffered badly during the Covid period.
As part of our commitment to transparency, it is our intention to give members a summary of the main issues discussed in all Bar Council meetings, so you know what your Bar Council is doing. A link for easy access to Bar Council minutes will be provided for members.
In addition to the above we last night also considered:
We congratulate Eddie Gisonda on his appointment as Honorary Secretary to the Bar Council and Joel Silver and Dr Robin Smith on their appointments as Assistant Honorary Secretaries. We thank the 13 members who expressed an interest in serving in these roles. Regrettably, there were no female applicants.
We thank the outgoing Honorary Secretary Katherine Brazenor and the Assistant Secretaries Kieran Hickie and Hadi Mazloum for their hard work and dedication over the last 12 months.
The Election Result
As part of our commitment to transparency and in light of uninformed speculation, the Bar Council has resolved to publish an abridged version of the results of the 2020 Victorian Bar Council Elections for members assistance in understanding the results.
The following is a summary of the results of the recent election:
Category A: Silks or junior counsel of not less than 15 years' standing.
1066 | Dr Suzanne (Sue) Bridget McNicol AM QC
938 | Mr Oliver Paul Holdenson QC
924 | Ms Róisín N Annesley QC
869 | Mr Simon Edward Marks QC
860 | Dr Ian Richard Lloyd Freckelton QC
822 | Ms Helen Mary Joan Rofe QC
821 | Ms Mary Anne Hartley QC
796 | Mr Eugene Wheelahan QC
735 | Mr Christopher John Blanden QC
652 | Mr Paul James Hayes QC
637 | Mr Darryl J Burnett
The candidate with the next highest number of votes received 417 votes.
Total ballots submitted: 1508
Category B: Junior counsel of not less than 6 or more than 15 years' standing.
871 | Ms Nawaar Hassan
783 | Mr Paul Kounnas
780 | Ms Amy Wood
765 | Mr Benjamin John Murphy
713 | Mr Ben Jellis
709 | Ms Robyn Sweet
The candidate with the next highest number of votes received 407 votes.
Total ballots submitted: 1485
Category C: Junior counsel of less than 6 years' standing.
794 | Mrs Roshena Campbell
759 | Miss Lana Collaris
742 | Mr Lachlan Molesworth
731 | Mr Nicholas J Phillpott
The candidate with the next highest number of votes received 287 votes.
Total ballots submitted: 1448
As previously noted, this year's election attracted a voter turnout of approximately 70% of those eligible to vote, the highest in the Victorian Bar's recent history, and a very substantial increase compared to the previous election.
The New Silks
On a personal note, on Wednesday, I was absolutely delighted to have as my first public function as President, the announcement of the new silks to the Supreme, Federal and Family Courts. Although the spectacle was diminished somewhat because of the virtual nature of the proceedings, the importance and excitement were in no way reduced. My congratulations to all the new silks for their outstanding achievement in trying circumstances.
The members of the Bar Council are keenly aware that the next 12 months is likely to present many challenges for our Bar. We believe with hard work and a continued commitment to the values that resulted in our election, we can meet those challenges.
Christopher Blanden QC