Starke J

Learned and experienced counsel

Starke J opened judgment with the following wry observations, following in the footsteps of Scrutton LJ who, one year previously in Elliot v Duchess Mill [1927] 1 KB 182, 201 commenced his judgment with the observation that '[t]he Court, with occasional assistance from counsel, took more than a day in discussing this case'. Interestingly, both dicta were 'followed' by Sri Skanda Raja J of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, who commenced his Honour's judgment in Odiris Appuhamy v Caroline Nona [1964] SC 235162-D with the further observation that '[i]f I begin by remarking that this appeal was argued by this Court, with occasional assistance from the learned Counsel who appeared for the parties, I will only be following, with respectful agreement, two learned and experienced Judges, eminent in their countries, though their observations are "not binding" on this Court.'

[62] This is an appeal from the Chief Justice, which was argued by this Court over nine days, with some occasional assistance from the learned and experienced counsel who appeared for the parties. The evidence was taken and the matter argued before the Chief Justice in two days. This case involves two questions, of no transcendent importance, which are capable of brief statement, and could have been exhaustively argued by the learned counsel in a few hours.

Citation: Federal Commissioner of Taxation v Hoffnung & Co Ltd (1928) 42 CLR 39, 62
Source: see attachment

An early funeral

Sir Heydon Erskine Starke had a reputation for his undirected and irascible wit. One -- strictly unreported and anecdotal -- quotation that is attributed to his Honour concerns a comment made at the funeral of Sir Isaac Isaacs. Reportedly, he was walking beside his colleague Rich J, who was 85 years old at the time (this being, of course, prior to the introduction of mandatory retirement ages for federal judges). When the pair encountered an open gravesite, Starke apparently leant over to Rich and asked him:

‘George, are you sure it’s worth your while to go home?’

Citation: Anecdotal
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