Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has appointed a new Chief Justice, Catherine Holmes. A founding member of the Queensland Women’s Legal Service, Holmes has enjoyed a prominent profile in Queensland legal circles for many years and is ‘widely considered as one of [Queensland’s] foremost legal minds and practitioners’. She is the first woman to be appointed to the position. As Queensland Attorney General, The Honourable Yvette D’Ath, observed on the occasion of her swearing in on 11 September 2015:
In a way, it is poetic that 2015 marks the occasion of the first woman to be elevated to this high office. It marks a century since 1915 when the first Queensland woman, Agnes McWhinney, was admitted to practice as a solicitor… In commentary on you taking up this role, and in years to come, there will no doubt be some reflection on your place in history, as the first woman in Queensland to be appointed Chief Justice.
The president of the Queensland Law Society welcomed the appointment. ‘We look forward to working with the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Holmes, in maintaining and preserving the rule of law and access to justice across the state,’ said Michael Fitzgerald. ‘The appointment brings certainty to our profession and our community.’
Chief Justice Holmes – Queensland’s 19th Chief Justice – has been a Supreme Court judge since 2000 and has sat on Queensland’s Court of Appeal since 2006. She was chosen by former Premier Anna Bligh in 2012 to head an inquiry in to the devastating floods that struck South East Queensland in January 2011. She served on the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal from 1994-2000 and the Queensland Community Corrections Board in 1997. In 1998-99, she served as Counsel Assisting the Forde Commission of Inquiry into the Abuse of Children.
At Chief Justice Holmes’ swearing in ceremony, Attorney General D’Ath observed the following about Chief Justice Holmes:
You are a humble person, someone that is reserved and considered in your approach to the law. You understand the importance of upholding the rule of law and expect the highest standards of professionalism from the court. You have a strong work ethic and an exceptional intellect. You have extensive experience in the law and a great capacity to work under pressure. Your Honour has an ability to maintain and command the respect of the profession, the judiciary and the broader community…a true inspiration to many.
Chief Justice Holmes accepted the appointment ‘with some trepidation,’ being under no illusion as to the challenges its presents. She intends to take a low-key role to running the courts, but she flagged she would keep busy by visiting regional courts and sitting on the bench as much as possible. ‘My great hope,’ she said, ‘which may disappoint you, will be to make the court itself entirely un-newsworthy, as opposed to the cases which pass through it.’