In June, we had the privilege of interviewing The Hon Chris Maxwell, President of the Victorian Court of Appeal in the final month of his 17 years of service in this role. Justice Maxwell graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1974 with degrees in law and philosophy, and then went on to continue his studies in philosophy as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Following his graduation from Oxford, Justice Maxwell worked as a barrister in London and Melbourne, as well as serving as Chief of Staff to the Commonwealth Attorney-General Gareth Evans in the early 1980s before being appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1988. During his career as a barrister, he earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for human rights, with a particular focus on freedom of speech, serving as President of Liberty Victoria prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeal. It was during his tenure with Liberty Victoria that he famously appeared as counsel in the Tampa case alongside Julian Burnside.
We had the opportunity to talk to his Honour about how his involvement in this case came about, and why he believes cases such as Tampa are worth litigating regardless of the ultimate outcome. He shared his insights into what other strategies have the greatest potential to produce a shift in public opinion on refugee issues in Australia, and why he believes a greater emphasis on interrogating the ethical and moral underpinnings of the law is necessary across Australian law schools. Justice Maxwell was also kind enough to assure us, through his own story, that excelling as a lawyer is not contingent on success at law school, and that serving as the President of the highest court in the state does not rob you of sunny Saturday mornings enjoying culinary delights at your local market.
Prepared by: Hannah Crispin and Summer Lyle-Holmes
JD Students MLS