The Hon Sir Laurence Street AC KCMG KStJ, the 14th chief justice of NSW from June 1974 to November 1988 and honorary life member of the Bar Association, has died.
President Arthur Moses SC said:
Sir Laurence was admitted to practise at the New South Wales Bar in February 1951. During a life of accomplishment in the law, many honours were bestowed upon him. He took silk in 1963. In 1965 he was appointed chief judge in the Equity Division of the Supreme Court. He was made a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 1976. He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989 for service to the law and to the Crown.
Sir Laurence was chief justice when the Judicial Commission of NSW was created by the government of Premier Barrie Unsworth and Attorney General Terry Sheahan. Initially seen as a direct attack upon the separation of powers, Sir Laurence’s skilful leadership of the judiciary ensured that amendments were made to the legislation and Parliament's constitutional role in the dismissal of judges was preserved. Sir Laurence was also the lieutenant governor of NSW and acting governor and served the community with distinction in that role.
At a ceremony to farewell Sir Laurence upon his retirement as chief justice, Michael Kirby said:
The Chief Justice has been, to the last, a special mixture of traditionalism and innovation. Of conservation and of radicalism. In this sense, he is the product of his distinguished parents. But he is also a reflection of the very tradition of our law which marries stability and creativity in a brilliant way.
Following his retirement, Sir Laurence led many and varied inquiries, particularly into the Defence Force disciplinary system in 2008. He was a commander in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve and led the formation of the Naval Reserve Legal Panel, which will remain as one of his legacies. He served as president of the International Law Association from 1990-1992 and president of the Judiciary Appeals Committee of the NRL from 1997-2010.
On behalf of the NSW Bar, I extend my condolences to the family of Sir Laurence. Sir Laurence will be remembered as a great leader of the NSW Supreme Court and a faithful servant of the law.
Members will be advised of funeral arrangements as soon as they are known.