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Conversation between Lillian Lesueur (CEO, NJCA) and Dr John Lowndes Judge in Residence

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Q: You were the Judge in Residence at ANU College of Law for two weeks between 8 October and 18 October this year. Can you describe the Judge in Residence program?

A: The Judge in Residence program is designed to afford academics and law students at the College of Law a unique opportunity to engage with members of the judiciary through a series of lectures or seminars, meetings and interviews. In particular, the program brings together judicial officers and academics with common interests in specific areas of the law so that they can learn from each other. The program is entirely consistent with the objects of the Australian Academy of Law which include uniting the judiciary, academia and the legal profession for the advancement of the discipline of law and providing  a forum for co-operation, collaboration, constructive debate and the effective exchange of views in the interests of advancing the law. The Judge in Residence program also gives law students an opportunity to tap into the wealth of experience of members of the judiciary and to obtain insights into the judicial role and judicial method, as well as the operation of courts.

Q: I would be interested to hear what you did during your time at the College of Law.

A: It was quite a busy two weeks.

I presented two guest lectures. The first was to first year law students on “Statutory Interpretation in the Real World”. The second was to JD (graduate) students in the Masterclass “ Lawyers Justice & Ethics” and dealt with the relationship between judicial ethics and the administration of justice.

The first lecture focused on the practical importance of statutory interpretation in the everyday work of judicial officers due to the proliferation of legislation in recent times and the inevitable imperfection and ambiguity of the English language in which legislative provisions are drafted.

The second lecture, more abstract in nature, attempted to demonstrate how the administration of justice is served by the AIJA Guide to Judicial Conduct.

I also participated in a public seminar on “Ensuring Justice for First Nations Australians in the Criminal Justice System”. This was in a nature of a “Q& A” which dealt with a broad spectrum of indigenous justice issues – the role of interpreters, the legacy of the Anunga Rules, the sentencing of indigenous offenders and the limitation on taking into account customary law and cultural beliefs during the sentencing process.

Throughout the two weeks I also met with members of the academic staff at the College of Law – including visiting academics from overseas- which provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and views in relation to areas of mutual interest.

There were a number of other highlights during my visit. These included participating in a session called “ Meet a Chief Judge” during which I spoke about my journey to the bench and took questions from law students about my judicial role, and taking part in a Law Reform and Social Justice Seminar during which I spoke about law reform in the Northern Territory and how young lawyers might be able to use their law degree to effect change in the law and legal practice. Finally, but not least, I took part in a series of 15 minute interviews with law students at the College of Law during which students asked me questions about the judicial role and career paths in the law.

I also met with a group of research assistants working on the Commonwealth Sentencing Database and we discussed how the database might be improved as a valuable resource assisting members of the judiciary in the sentencing of Commonwealth offenders.

Q: How did you find your visit as Judge in Residence on a personal level?

A: My visit was both enjoyable and rewarding. I was most impressed by the ability and enthusiasm of law students at the College and the excellent work done by the academic staff in educating young lawyers and preparing them for future careers either within or outside the legal profession.

As a judicial officer I have always enjoyed engaging with the community about the role of judges and the operation of courts, and this was a unique opportunity to interact with the legal community.  I found my discussions with College academics regarding the law curriculum particularly stimulating as there is real potential for the judiciary to shape and influence the content of the curriculum with a view to better preparing future young lawyers when they enter the legal profession and embark upon the practice of law.

Q: What was your overall assessment of the program

A: I think Judge in Residence is a great program that brings together members of the judiciary and the legal community at the ANU College of Law in a mutually beneficial environment. I certainly found the program beneficial; and from all accounts the academics and students at the College of Law – with whom I had the privilege of engaging with during my time at the College -found the program equally beneficial.