In 2018, the Members of the SCLA awarded Judge John Robertson with a life membership to our association in recognition of his long and outstanding service to the legal community and the support he has always given to the SCLA over many years.
Now retired, Judge Robertson continues his involvement in the local legal community and has been appointed Chair of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council. He is also training to be a volunteer at the Suncoast Community Legal Centre to offer free advice to those in need in the community. He will now have more time to enjoy his passions outside of the law, such as singing with his choir (which have undertaken 2 World tours and is undertaking a tour to Italy in 2019 where they are singing in St Peters), swimming, yoga, golf and spending time with his grandchildren (He and his wife, June, have 18 with 3 more on the way!!).
Judge Robertson has had an enormously accomplished career and we have tried to put together a precis of some highlights to give a sense of what he has achieved.
He was first admitted as a solicitor in 1973 and started his own firm in 1978 in Brisbane. In 1983 that firm became Robertson O’Gorman and still exists with Terry as a partner and Dan Rogers as Managing Partner.
He specialised in criminal law, defamation, professional misconduct and for many years common law and family law. He lists his career highlights as a solicitor as:
Representing many people at the Fitzgerald Enquiry (and after enquiry) including acting as honorary solicitor for the QLS.
Representing many alleged white-collar offenders including Michael Gore and Don Lane.
Representing many solicitors (over 70) before the then disciplinary tribunal called the Statutory Committee and on occasions acted in those proceedings for the QLS.
Being a member of many QLS sub-committees and sub- committees of the Law Council of Australia. As a member of the Human Rights subcommittee he attended as an observer at the trial of Australian priest Father Brian Gore in Negros City in the Philippines. Father Gore was charged – along with an Irish priest Niaal O’Brien, a Filipino priest and 6 church workers - with the murder of a local mayor and a number of his associates. It was an entirely political trial which attracted the worlds’ media and he was one of 3 representing the Australian Government as observers.
He was an inaugural member of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
In September 1994 he was appointed as the first solicitor to the District Court of Queensland and the first permanent Judge in Ipswich. Over his almost 23 years as a Judge there were again many highlights;
Serving on many court committees including the Criminal Law subcommittee.
Lecturing throughout his career to legal audiences (general conferences and judges’ conferences) and law students on a variety of topics including sentencing, criminal law, juries, public opinion and the law; ethics and language and the law.
Publishing many articles on diverse topics including many contributions to Proctor.
Having a strong commitment to demystifying the law and spoke many occasions to students and public groups such as Rotary on this topic.
In 1999 he was appointed as the President of the Children’s Court of Queensland and resigned in 2001 when he moved to the Sunshine Coast.
In 2001 he became the second judge appointed to Maroochydore where he served out his career as a judge, retiring in 2018.
When the National Judicial College of Australia was formed he was appointed as the initial convenor for Queensland which he undertook for 5 years.
Being regularly engaged with the media to attempt to meet the constant criticism of sentencing and other aspects of judging and life in the community as a judge.
He was a member of the Criminal Law Subcommittee of the higher courts set up as a result of one of the Fitzgerald recommendations.
He was the only DCJ on the inaugural joint committee of the higher courts which lead to the formulation of the Supreme and District Court Benchbook.
He has been awarded Life Membership of QLS.
In 1999 he published the Queensland Sentencing Manual and has recently completed Update 49 of that service, which is published by Thomson Reuters.
In 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of QUT for services to legal education and particularly for his long-term involvement with the Legal Practice Course which was the first in Queensland and the forerunner to the present PLT courses.
Finally, Judge Robertson has shown continuous support for the local legal community by ensuring that he remained a presence at events held by the SCLA, both social and educational, and supporting the causes that the SCLA advocates.
Our thanks go to him for that support and we wish him well in retirement. It is certainly an honour to have him accept life membership to the Sunshine Coast Law Association.