One of the strange traditions on the High Court is the debut judgment, in which every new Justice gets a case on which they will write. Then instead of joining the judgment, their bretheren write a one liner: “I concur with Smith J”. That way, you know that the new Justice wrote it (by contrast, if they’d joined, theÂ JusticesÂ would be listed in order of seniority).
Anyhow, it seems the tradition of debut judgments is disappearing as rapidly as, well, debuts. Kirby J didn’t get one. Callinan J didn’t get one. And now Crennan J’s has been agreed to byÂ onlyÂ half the court: Gleeson CJ, Gummow J and Heydon J.
The case is Harriton v. Stephens, dealing with wrongful birth (though the appellants didn’t like that term), and the judgment came down today. Kirby J was the only one who would have allowed the action, while Hayne J and Callinan J came to similar conclusions as Crennan J, butÂ just appeared to phrase things a bit differently.
The moral of the story: If your doctor tells you you’re not pregnant, you might want to ask for a second opinion, coz there’s no penalty for him if he gets it wrong. And if you’re appointed to the High Court, don’t hold your breath for your first opinion.
(Thanks to Ame Simpson for drawing my attention to the judgment.)