James Merralls Visiting Fellowship in Law

By Lianne Hall

James Merralls has been the editor of the Commonwealth Law Reports for 45 years. Now, his name will be associated with a new Melbourne Law School visiting fellowship that will bring leading scholars to Australia.

Carolyn Evans and James Merrall 

The James Merralls Visiting Fellowship in Law has been established by Melbourne Law School to honour alumnus James Merralls AM QC (LLB (Hons) 1958; HonLLD 2013), a leading silk, teacher and editor of the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLRs).

The fellowship will bring leading legal scholars in the areas of private or constitutional law from across the globe to Melbourne Law School for a semester to teach law students and engage with the profession. Each visit to Melbourne will also involve a public lecture hosted jointly by the Victorian Bar and the Law School.

In addition to his long involvement with the Commonwealth Law Reports, James Merralls has been a leading barrister specialising in equity and constitutional law. He has also been a resident law tutor and Dean of Trinity College. Last year, the University of Melbourne recognised his substantial contribution to the field of law by awarding him the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).

The Hon. Joseph Santamaria (LLB (Hons) 1972), who chaired the public launch last month, says that the new fellowship is due recognition of James Merralls' substantial contribution to the legal profession in Australia.

Justice Santamaria described his contribution to the administration of justice in Australia as immeasurable. He said: "Courts and practitioners depend on having access to the work of the High Court of Australia.  For the last half century, its work has been synthesized and illuminated by James Merralls".

As editor of the reports, James Merralls has supervised the work of dozens of law reporters throughout Australia.

The high regard in which he is held has prompted a group of former reporters to become involved in an initiative that will see a closer connection between the Bar and the Law School. The Chairman of the Victorian Bar will be a member of the panel that selects the James Merralls Visiting Fellow.

Philip Crutchfield QC (LLB (Hons) 1986), who has been responsible for developing the proposal for the initiative, expects that the new fellowship will be embraced by the entire legal community.

"James Merralls has had a lasting influence on all those that worked with him at the Bar and under his editorship of the CLRs. Particularly, in all the reports, he developed the ability to identify the principle for which a case stood, and to express it succinctly," said Mr Crutchfield.

The generosity of these barristers, judges and others has so far raised $400,000. They hope this will be a catalyst for further donations towards an ultimate goal of $500,000.

The Law School is now inviting alumni, students, staff and the wider legal community to become involved and to make gifts so that the fellowship can be taken to a further level as a permanently endowed fund.

Image: James Merralls and the Dean of Melbourne Law School at his conferring ceremony 
Photography: Peter Casamento

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 11, June 2014.