Planning and Environment Court Judge Michael Rackemann was able to laugh at his lack of IT skills at his valedictory ceremony while also being praised for his commitment to court modernisation.
A packed Banco Court, also which included online audiences in 12 regional centres, heard on Friday of His Honour’s enthusiasm for improving procedures while also witnessing his renowned sense of humour (he once addressed a Bundaberg law conference on How to Infuriate A Judge).
Judge Rackemann reflected on the office and institution.
While thanking colleagues, associates, secretarial support, mentors, bailiffs, library and judiciary staff, District Court Judge Rackemann noted: “What I think I’ll most be lost without is the team from the judicial IT support”.
This comment brought resounding laughter from the court.
Chief Justice Bowskill attended.
“I don’t know why you are laughing but I have been what you might call a ‘frequent flyer’ with these people. And I hear they are currently considering how many positions will be made redundant by my retirement,” he said.
“I am mindful that any aptitude and diligence one might exhibit is of little significance without opportunity, and that not everyone enjoys equality of opportunity. I am therefore enormously grateful for the opportunities which came my way.”
He recalled the “pivotal opportunity” which was his clerkship with Judge Row.
“I was fortunate to obtain any such position, given I had no family or legal connections in any way, as was the way with many successful applicants for associateships and clerkships in those days,” he said.
It was during this time that His Honour that realised his ambition to become a barrister and his “interest” and “real affection” for the jurisdiction (planning and development), which was “to become the focus of my career”.
After completing two years with what was then the local government court, he “harboured a thought that it would be wonderful if one day I too could be a judge of the court with the same elevated sense of responsibility so I could make a contribution”.
The Bar Association of Queensland paid respect.
His Honour became a judge at 39 years, and later became responsible for managing the Brisbane list. He said many asked why he had cut short his career at the bar.
“I was because it was offered to me and what I most wanted to do. I’m also pleased that my appointment at a relatively young age allowed me to give what I think were my best and most energetic years to the court,” he said.
“I would not have wanted to give the court anything less. To give anything less than my best would have to been disrespect the opportunity.”
His Honour finished by paying to his tribute wife Margaret for her strength and support during his 20-year judicial career and through difficult times.
His Honour, who was appointed to the District Court on 12 January 2004, was thanked by Chief Judge Devereaux SC for his “long period of excellence service” including managing the planning and environment court list in Brisbane.
Chief Judge Devereaux addressing the court.
CJ Devereaux quoted a colleague who said Judge Rackemann “dragged the court, its practices and procedures into the 21st century, and set a path for the court to be successful and stable”.
“I am reliably informed by some of His Honour’s current colleagues that His Honour as a judge demanded and received high standards of professionalism from practitioners, and thereby lifted the standards of practice in the court,” he said.
“He was fearless in pursuit of court modernisation, notably this was so in the deployment of experts and their timing of their engagement into the court’s process … a ripple effect of efficiencies.
“And His Honour spent great energy as a compelling advocate of the P&E Court.”
Queensland Law Society President Rebecca Fogerty said: “Your Honour’s legacy in the Planning and Environment Court is one of profound impact.
QLS President Rebecca Fogerty at the ceremony.
“The Court, the profession and the community have all benefited from your leadership and from your fierce advocacy in support of this jurisdiction. In ceremonies such as these, epitaphs such as trailblazer and reformer are liable to overuse, but not today.
“There is a parade of lawyers, not to mention fellow judges, who have benefitted from your mentorship, your passion for good law, your deep knowledge, your sometimes wicked sense of humour and friendship.
“Our profession, and our community, have been enriched by your service. You will be very missed.”
QLS Planning and Environment Committee Chairs Michael Connor,
Russell Bowie and Leanne Bowie attended with Matt Dunn.