Jeremy Kirk SC

Kevin Tang

On the 21st of April 2022, Jeremy Kirk SC was sworn-in as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and as a judge of Appeal of that same court in a ceremonial sitting of the Banco Court. In attendance were the Honourable Chief Justice Dr Bell, the President of the NSW Court of Appeal the Honourable Justice Ward, other members of the Supreme Court of NSW, and dignitaries from the Federal and High Courts of Australia along with other courts. Also in attendance were his Honour’s father Dr John Kirk, his Honour’s immediate family of two children and co-parents Elizabeth and Jackie, as well as four of his five brothers and members of their respective families.

His Honour was the first of his family to be born in Australia. He attended secondary school at Daramalan College in Canberra where his keen interest in the Constitution emerged. His Honour expressed his gratitude to his father for fostering his interest in constitutional matters, recalling fond memories of the many half-hour drives with his father between Canberra and Murrumbateman – the location of the family winery, Clonakilla – when they discussed a myriad of subjects, from the law and politics to religion, scientific and environmental matters.

His Honour completed a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at the Australian National University where he would receive numerous academic accolades culminating in being awarded the University Medal in Law. Subsequently, his Honour was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and in that great legal tradition went up to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law at Magdalen College, Oxford. His Honour continued his studies, completing a doctorate on implied rights in constitutional adjudication by the High Court of Australia since 1983, elements of which have since been referred to by that very court. His Honour has continued his contribution to academia, publishing sixteen academic articles and texts, many of which have similarly been referred to in various matters before Australian courts.

It was remarked upon by the NSW attorney-general the Honourable Mark Speakman SC MP that at the end of his Honour’s first year at Oxford, one of his supervisors wrote to Magdalen College complaining that he was not sufficiently studious being too preoccupied with the conviviality of college life. This was a manifestly specious observation as his Honour would go on to become a Vinerian Scholar placing himself firmly alongside the intellectual luminaries of the common law world.

Upon returning to Australia, his Honour commenced practising in commercial litigation at Freehills. His Honour cited that the highlight of his three years as a solicitor involved his work at the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, praising the continued support from firms and the bar in committing themselves to pro bono matters and other such socially worthy cases.

His Honour was called to the bar in 2002. His tutor was Dr Andrew Bell SC (as he then was) on the Eleventh Floor of Wentworth Chambers. His Honour would go on to practise in the areas of constitutional, administrative, commercial, medical negligence and appeals generally for some twenty years. His Honour has appeared extensively in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal of New South Wales, in the Federal Court, in interstate courts and tribunals. In the High Court alone he appeared in some fifty matters. His Honour has also assisted in multiple commissions of inquiry, including as counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. His Honour took silk in 2011 after a brief period as junior counsel, expressing gratitude for his frequent leaders Michael Sexton SC and Stephen Gageler SC, Dr John Griffiths SC and Bret Walker SC (as they then were).

Notably in 2013, his Honour appeared for Australian Marriage Equality Inc. regarding same-sex marriage in the Australian Capital Territory in Commonwealth v ACT (2013) 250 CLR 441 and, in a demonstration of the breadth of his practice, his Honour would also go on to appear for Ms Amber Heard regarding the much-publicised importation of her dogs ‘Pistol’ and ‘Boo’.

It was noted that his Honour was an engaging and respectful mentor to junior counsel, setting a particularly excellent example to younger members of the bar in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The attorney-general noted his commitment to his family, always leaving chambers at 4.30pm to ensure he could spend time with his children after school – something his Honour expressed he was immensely proud of.

His Honour noted that he had no fondness for and had never insisted on his correct title and form of address. Rather, he adopted the approach of his mother, assiduously avoiding any reference to ‘Doctor’. However, he noted that one title remained supremely important, and which meant more than anything to him – ‘Dad’.

This was a rare event in that a distinguished senior silk was being appointed directly from the ranks of the bar to the Court of Appeal and follows in the tradition of other exceptional appointments to that court. His Honour concluded the ceremonial sitting by expressing his gratitude for and eagerness to embrace the new challenges and variety of prospects he will face on the bench going forward. BN

Kevin Tang

8 Wentworth Chambers