The Federation Press

Murray Gleeson - The Smiler


Courtroom tactician, devastating in reply, intimidating and intense. Murray Gleeson has been described as many things, but his grim work persona gave him the label that stuck – The Smiler.

Born in a small country town in NSW, Gleeson became the nation’s top barrister and its leading judge. In a legal career spanning over 50 years, he had a ringside seat for political, legal and social events that shaped Australia – the final separation from Mother England, legalised abortion, the dismissal of the Whitlam government, the Tasmanian Dams Case, the Fine Cotton substitution, the scandalous attack on Justice Michael Kirby, the war on terrorism, prisoners’ right to vote and the detention of refugees.

The Smiler draws on more than 100 interviews with the man himself and his family, friends and judicial colleagues, including those who sat with him on the High Court. It is an unprecedented insight into a legend of the Australian legal system.


"Murray Gleeson is not the sexiest man I ever met. However, he is the dominant counsel and judge of our age, and Michael Pelly’s account should be read for this alone.
Pelly starts at the beginning. On page one, Gleeson’s maternal grandfather is asking the three-year-old what he wants to be. “I’m going to be the Pope.” Better off being Bill Dovey, the Free Presbyterian retorts. And so we have one topic and one theme which have run on through Gleeson’s life." Read review... - David Ash, Francis Forbes Society, Australian Legal History, May 2014

Table of Contents

1. Early Life
2. Leaving Home
3. The Rise of Leo… and Murray
4. The University Years
5. Learning the Law
6. On the Job
7. A Partner for Life
8. Stress Takes Its Toll
9. No Looking Back
10. Faith and Fidelity
11. Ritual and Routine
12. From the Bottom of the Harbour
13. Breaking Away
14. A Party Man?
15. In the Limelight
16. In the Backroom
17. Get Gleeson
18. The Sexiest Man I Ever Met
19. An Extinct Argument
20. Blink and Miss
21. Follow the Leader
22. The Smiler
23. To the Bench
24. Street’s Red Hot Potato
25. Getting Down to Business
26. Sitting in Judgment
27. No Limit to Evil
28. Speaking his Mind
29. On High
30. A Helping Hand
31. The Home Front
32. Settling In
33. High and Mighty
34. The PR Guy
35. The Vibe
36. A Liberal in Disguise?
37. Murderers and Terrorists
38. Who’s Responsible?
39. A Court Scandalised
40. Still in the Game


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