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Review: The Trials of Justice Murphy

trials of justice murphy book cover

Suits, The Good Wife, and Serial are the classic fountains of inspiration when answering the burning question, “Why should I study law?” Harvey Specter’s speeches (and hair), and Alicia Florrick’s wit keep motivation high during reclusive exam periods in the library. Now, we tend to think of judges as impartial finders of fact. We entrust the balancing of competing interests to their learned judicial wisdom. But what if I told you there’s more scandal in our own backyard? In the very apex of our court system, the High Court, no less!

Justice Murphy was a High Court Judge (think Chamberlain v The Queen, Tasmania Franklin River Dam Case and former Attorney-General under the Whitlam government - you can thank him for the Family Law Act 1975). In 1985, he was charged with perverting the course of justice by interfering with the trial of his “little mate”, Sydney lawyer Morgan Ryan. This was followed by 2 years of Senate Inquiries, and challenges from the High Court and then Supreme Court. After a finding of innocence in August 1986, he returned as a sitting member on the High Court until his last judgment delivered hours before his death on October 21 the same year.


Now, what if I told you that LexisNexis has just released a book detailing the full trials of Justice Murphy? Take a break from Netflix binge-watching - trust me, it’s worth. Curl up in bed reading something that isn’t a textbook. This LexisNexis book is nothing like a thick Constitutional Law tome. It features suspenseful courtroom drama fused with juicy media coverage and political rants - every law student’s dream! Drawing upon his own interviews with witnesses and key figures, as well as media research, Walmsley tries to tell the story as impartially as possible, articulating complex court arguments in a digestible manner and introducing us to the bigwigs of the Sydney law circuit. LexisNexis describes the book as an ‘interesting mix between legal and political history’ - but I’d describe it more as legal porn for the average law student.

If you’re looking for inspiration for next semester, I’d suggest get your hands on this retelling of the only High Court judge to be the subject of parliamentary investigation. That’s a scandal if I ever saw one.

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