Part history, part biography, First Among Equals takes us on a journey through the history of the State of South Australia as we follow the lives of the five Chief Justices who completed their term in the twentieth century.
The book begins in the genteel South Australia of the last days of Queen Victoria when the Post Office and Town Hall Towers were the tallest structures in the Adelaide skyline.
Its dominating personality then was Chief Justice Sir Samuel Way. He was also Lieutenant-Governor, Chancellor of the only university, and presided over the organizations that governed the Children’s Hospital, Art Gallery, Museum, Library, Zoo and Botanic Gardens.
The twentieth century unfurled and the role of the Chief Justice in South Australia evolved. The State grew more sophisticated and the Courts expanded considerably. It achieved it final form under Len King, Chief Justice from 1978 until 1995, whose legacy is the form it holds now.
See also titles in the Lives of Australian Chief Justices series.
First reaction to a book which is subtitled “Chief Justices of South Australia Since Federation” is to assume a fusty tome intended for the sentimental education of the legal profession. The surprise is that it turns out to be a rather lively history book. Emerson wields a light pen. His tight biographies ripple with a sense of the character as well as the life and times of his subjects. Legal careers and political events flow through as absorbing narrative rather than leaden fact. The five chief justices ... emerge not only as powerful figures in South Australian history but also as interesting people with human foibles. The accounts are coloured by details of home, health, conflict, controversy and comment – making it a portrait of a city’s evolving social and cultural fabric. - The Adelaide Advertiser, 17 February 2007
[A] very readable and instructive book. It will be much enjoyed by the general reader as well as by legal practitioners, legal academics and historians.
... an indispensable addition to one’s reading list over the Christmas vacation. More importantly, it is a worthwhile contribution to the relative dearth of legal biography in Australia now being remedied by the work of people like Dr Emerson and Dr Bennett. - Bulletin (Law Society of South Australia), Vol 29(1), Feb 2007
Table of Contents
Foreword by the Hon J J Doyle AC
Preface and Acknowledgements
The Office of Chief Justice
Sir Samuel Way
Sir George Murray
Sir Mellis Napier
The Chief Justices of South Australia Since Federation