Obituary - The Honourable Philip Damien Cummins AM


Bar Roll no: 751

It is with deep regret that the Bar Council informs members of the death yesterday (Sunday 24 February 2019) of the Honourable Philip Cummins AM. Philip was 79 (born 9 November 1939).

Philip’s Funeral Service is in the Jim Stynes Room in the Olympic Stand of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Level 2 on Thursday 7 March 2019 at 11 am – please see detailed instructions in relation to entry, security and no on-site or grounds parking in the Funeral Directors’ notice in this morning’s Age.

Philip was educated at Xavier College and at the University of Melbourne. At matriculation, he won the Exhibition in English Literature and the Shakespeare Society Prize. At the University, he was President of the Law Students’ Society and Vice-President of the Students’ Representative Council; during the long vacations, he was a jackaroo, drove trucks, and was an Army cook; and he graduated in Arts (majoring in Psychology) and Law.

He served Articles with Francis Patrick Mannix at Cleary Ross & Doherty and was admitted to practice on 2 March 1964 – he thus served in the Law just short of 55 years.

After a year as a Solicitor, he came to the Bar and read with Abraham Monester (later QC). He was “Mr Junior” at the 1965 Bar Dinner; “Mr Junior Silk” at the 1979 Dinner; and the Junior Supreme Court Judge responding to the toast to the Honoured Guests at the 1988 Dinner.

In his first year at the Bar, he completed the Graduate Diploma in Criminology. With his practice at the Junior Bar at its height, not long before he took Silk, he earned a course-work LL M with First Class Honours in all subjects. On the Bench (the final touches completed in retirement), he earned a Master of Science (Psychiatry) with First Class Honours by thesis. A very-much part-time Ph D candidate, he last year completed the significant confirmation stage.

Philip was Senior Vice-Chairman for 18 months and Chairman for a year – and in his 11th consecutive year on the Bar Council when appointed to the Supreme Court. He served on 14 Committees, chairing 7 of them. He was in every sense a Leader of the Bar – a Silk for the best part of 10 years; a gifted criminal jury advocate who always maintained a substantial Civil practice.

He served with distinction on the Supreme Court for more than 21½ years in all Divisions of the Court and as an Acting Judge of Appeal; and was the Senior Judge in the Trial Division and Principal Judge of the Criminal Division.

He was an Independent Lecturer in Legal Ethics & Professional Conduct at the Melbourne Law School for more than 20 years.

 In “retirement”, he chaired the Victoria Law Foundation; was President of Court Network; chaired the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry; chaired the Victorian Law Reform Commission (at his desk last Thursday); and was President of the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies in London. In the Bar Centenary Review, he was “Fabulous Phil” – wholly apt, life-long.

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