The Federation Press

Sir Valentine Fleming

Second Chief Justice of Tasmania 1854-1869, Acting Chief Justice 1872-1874

Overview

This biography, the 12th in Bennett’s Lives of Australian Chief Justices, commemorates the distinguished career of Tasmania’s Sir Valentine Fleming.

An English barrister of Irish descent and education, Fleming arrived in Hobart as Insolvency Commissioner. A “useful man” to government, he advanced as Crown Law Officer and served ex officio in the Legislative Council until succeeding Sir John Pedder as Chief Justice in 1854.

This elevation released Fleming from a political role he hated and enabled him to dispel the enmity his pro-government views in that role had attracted.

He proved to be a model judicial lawyer, blending a conscientious, considerate and courteous manner with a powerful command of legal principle, as when his decision in Hampton v. Fenton that a colonial legislature had no inherited power to punish extra-mural contempt, was upheld by the Privy Council.

Although keeping generally aloof from the community, he was the first Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania and; a proponent of universal education, the first President of the Tasmanian Council of Education. His grand Hobart residence “Holbrook”, convict designed and in a Scottish style, is a surviving memorial.

Reviews

The life and times of Sir Valentine Fleming are not well known to most people and, but for this fine book by J.M. Bennett, his place in history would be little more than a couple of notes in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Which is altogether an unjust remembrance for a man who was a faithful and diligent servant of the public and one of the finest judicial decision-makers in the early days of the Australian colonies.
... The fine work of Bennett opens an engrossing work on the life of Fleming, describing him as a private man who took pride in his appearance and his role in the community. In this work I can’t help but sense that Fleming would be very pleased with his portrayal. - Proctor May 2008

This biography the 12th in Bennett’s Lives of Australian Chief Justices, commemorates the distinguished career of Tasmana’s Sir Valentine Fleming. - SA L:aw Society Journal, June 2008

this very readable volume offers an interesting view into colonial society...a well-researched work, with extensive notes. - Australian Law Librarian, Vol 16 No 2, 2008

The general reader as well as the legal community will enjoy reading cases Fleming presided over. - Noel Shaw, The Examiner (Launceston), 1 March 2008

Dr. Bennett takes us back in time, whilst enabling us to view the past from our present perspective, a remarkable gift ... These books are most readable ... very easy to read in one session, or a chapter or so at a time. ...
I think what interests me most about these books is the insight they present to the expectations of the community 160 years ago, as much as the revelation of the personality of the subject of the book. Fleming certainly received a lot of attention both from the politicians and the press. His ability to retain his composure and objectivity is, on my reading, one of the major threads to come through the book.
... I would again highly recommend this and all the previous “Lives” for any person, practitioner or otherwise, who has any interest in the early conduct of the Courts and the practice of the law in Colonial Tasmania. - Law Letter, Autumn 2008

Table of Contents

Foreword by The Honourable William Cox
Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations
“Dramatis Personae”

“A Laborious, Pains-taking Young Lawyer”
Solicitor-General (1844-1848)
Attorney-General (1848-1854)
“The Right of Exercising His Own Private Judgment”
Replacing a Chief Justice
The Fleming Supreme Court
Hampton v. Fenton (1855); Fenton v. Hampton (1858)
Business Before the Court
Retirement, Recall and Retirement Again

Abbreviations
Notes
Index

Of interest...