University alumna appointed to highest court in Australia

The Masters of Law graduate, solicitor, barrister and Federal Court judge has been elevated to the highest legal decision-making body in the country.

The Honourable Justice Jacqueline Gleeson

Former Federal Court judge, barrister and solicitor, the Honourable Justice Jacqueline Gleeson SC (Bachelor of Arts, 1986 and Bachelor of Laws, 1989) was appointed to the High Court of Australia on Wednesday.

She began her legal career in 1989 – the year she graduated from the University of Sydney. After working as an associate to Justice Trevor Morling of the Federal Court, she became a a solicitor at Bush Burke & Company. Shortly after that, in 1991, she was admitted as a barrister.

Before becoming a judge, she was general counsel at the Australian Broadcasting Authority (now the Australian Communications and Media Authority), and senior executive lawyer for the Australian Government Solicitor. Justice Gleeson also took time for further studies, completing a Master of Laws at the University of Sydney in 2005.

The daughter of former Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson, she was appointed to the Federal Court by Attorney-General George Brandis in April 2014, where she became the Honourable Justice Gleeson. Then, on 28 October 2020, she reached the judicial pinnacle: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter announced her ascension to the High Court.

As one of two judges appointed – the other being Simon Steward, also of the Federal Court – they will replace retiring justices Geoffrey Nettle and Virginia Bell, preserving the Court’s gender makeup of three women and four men.

Mr Porter said Justice Gleeson would start on March 1, and the diversity of her expertise in “a number of civil jurisdictions across public and private practice … will no doubt be a major asset to the High Court”.

The University congratulates Justice Gleeson on her appointment. Dean, Sydney Law School, Professor Simon Bronitt said: “Justice Jacqueline Gleeson SC is an outstanding appointment to High Court, bringing ability and independence to this important role at the apex of our justice system. Her Honour is another inspiring legal mind and Sydney Law School graduate, having been awarded both her LLB and LLM from our University.

“We are proud of her many achievements, at the bar, as general counsel, in government legal service and on the bench. I have no doubt that she will make a significant mark on High Court jurisprudence in the years to come.”

Justice Gleeson joins 18 other Sydney Law School alumni who have been appointed to the High Court.