Mr Michael Kingsley Meek SC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales
On Thursday 5 May, 2022, the Banco Court was filled to capacity for the swearing in of Michael Kingsley Meek SC by the Chief Justice Dr AS Bell. The speakers were the Honourable Mark Speakman SC MP on behalf of the Bar, and Ms Vann der Plaat, President of the New South Wales Law Society, on behalf of the solicitors of New South Wales. In attendance were members of his Honour's family – his wife Jennifer and their children Elspeth and Andrew, his twin brother Matthew, his sister Louise and his parents-in-law.
His younger brother Ben was unable to attend in person as he was overseas for work commitments. His Honour remarked upon how grateful he was to see such large numbers of barristers in the Banco Court for this occasion to wish him well. Notable, among the banks of retired judges in attendance, was the Honourable Peter Young KC, along with a number of other former Equity judges.
His Honour was raised in Castlecrag, in Sydney, in a loving and richly educational family environment. His Honour’s memories and recollection were infused with palpable emotion. His father worked for over two decades at IBM after being in the Navy, and he was a highly competent educator skilled in mathematics, chess and statistical analysis. This manifested in his Honour as a particular aptitude for logical thinking and problem-solving, which is evident in all his children. His Honour’s mother was a gifted English teacher who, having first commenced studying medicine at university, eventually transferred to arts to give full expression to her passion for English literature. As a child, his Honour remembered her quoting poetry verbatim, her encouragement to delve into English literature and her greatest legacy: the Christian faith. His Honour, steeped with his mother’s and father’s interests and intellect, was particularly taken by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and from a young age knew that he wanted to be a lawyer.
After graduating from North Sydney Boys’ High School, his Honour attended the University of Sydney where he read Economics and Law. His Honour shared the RSG Rutherford Award for equal first in economic statistics in the final year of his Economics degree.
Soon after, his Honour commenced his legal career as the tipstaff in the chambers of Mr Justice PW Young, who sat in the Equity Division of the New South Wales Supreme Court. His Honour reminisced on how wonderfully instructive the year 1987 was, working for Justice Young, and the advantages of researching and engaging with the life of the court. Thereafter, his Honour commenced work as a solicitor at Duncan Baron and Co., replacing a young solicitor, Paul Brereton (who would later become a judge of the Supreme Court himself).
His Honour was admitted to the Bar in 1992, and he read on the 13th Floor of Selborne Chambers. He would eventually occupy a fine and large room which had been occupied by number of notable counsel before him, including JK McLaughlin. Effectively, for the entirety of his time in practice – some thirty years – he remained on that floor in convivial company. The members included Philip Hallen (later Hallen J), David Davies (later Davies J), and also the late Janet Coombs and Cecily Backhouse KC (later Backhouse DCJ). At the Bar, his Honour was known for calmly and lucidly conducting complex cases.
He appeared in several well-known cases and inquiries, including claims arising out of Chelmsford Private Hospital, the Thredbo Disaster and the Tamworth Bus Crash. His Honour took silk in 2009. His Honour was known for a busy and prestigious practice in the field of Wills & Estates and Trusts. In particular, in his field of expertise, he acted for relatives of celebrity families and well-known estates, including the estates of Lady Sonia McMahon, Bart Cummings and Reg Grundy.
On one occasion he was complimented by Spigelman CJ for his exposition of Indonesian probate law. His Honour helped pioneer estate law appearing in Re Fenwick, the first statutory wills case in New South Wales, and Small v Philips, the first statutory will appeal in New South Wales. During his lengthy career at the Bar, his Honour taught, lectured and wrote on academic matters. He has been a wellknown contributing editor to Richie’s Civil Procedure.
From time to time, his Honour also chaired Lexis Nexis annual conferences on Wills and Estates Law, and he authored the work known as The Australian Legal System, now in its 5th edition. His Honour has served as the Chancellor to the current and former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and as Deputy Chancellor to Archbishop Jensen. His Honour spoke movingly about the central place of his faith and family in the context of a busy legal career. He has been conscientious in his devotion to both. In particular, he expressed the significance of the support of his wife, a talented musician, and his children.
His Honour’s quietly and carefully worded speech on this occasion was testament to his heartfelt gratitude and his deep devotion to Christ. He recalled movingly his parents and their contribution to his life, and in particular the Godly wisdom and sacrifice of his wife Jennifer. As a Christian, his Honour expressed his readiness and eagerness to assume the judicial burden, and to undertake the challenges which await him in his next phase. BN