Sir Michael Francis Joseph McDonnell (1882–1956) was Chief Justice of Palestine between 1927 and 1936. McDonnell attended the public St. Paul's School, London (he later wrote a history of the school and its illustrious alumni). He went on to read medicine and then law at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he also served as president of the Cambridge Union Society. At the Union, Michael and his older brother T.F.R. McDonnell championed the Irish Home Rule cause. Both were also adamant supporters of women's suffrage and admission to Cambridge.
After graduating from Cambridge McDonnell was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. At that time he authored the book Ireland and the Home Rule Movement (1908), an attack on British policy in Ireland and a critique of Empire more broadly. McDonnell nevertheless went on to join the Colonial Service in 1911, serving in British West Africa for sixteen years. During his time in West Africa McDonnell served as Assistant District Commissioner in the Gold Coast, magistrate in Gambia, and Attorney General and Acting Chief Justice in Sierra Leone. He was appointed Chief Justice of Palestine in 1927.
McDonnell was forced into early retirement in October 1936, towards the end of the first wave of the Arab Revolt, and replaced by Harry Herbert Trusted in January 1937. McDonnell's retirement was induced by a series of clashes with Palestine's High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Wauchope, over the role of Palestine's judiciary in suppressing the "disturbances." This clash culminated in McDonnell's ruling in the Qasir case. The decision pertained to house demolitions scheduled to take place in the old city of Jaffa. Although McDonnell ruled that the government had the authority to demolish the houses, he deemed the government's reliance on town planning justifications, rather than military necessity, an act of moral cowardice and accused it of "throwing dust" in the public's eyes.
After retiring from the bench and returning to London, McDonnell took up advocacy on behalf of the Arab cause in Palestine: he published a number of articles in which he attacked Britain's pro-Zionist policy in Palestine and in 1939, he was an adviser to the Arab delegation concerning the 1915-1916 correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif Hussayn of Mecca.
- Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, 2001, ISBN 0-8050-6587-3
- Tom Bowden, The Politics of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine 1936-39, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (May 1975), pp. 147-174
- Binyamin Blum, The Not Very High Standard of Credibility of Witnesses in Palestine: Perjury, Colonialism, and the Corroboration Requirement in Mandate Palestine Paper presented at the annual meeting of The Law and Society Association, Grand Hyatt, Denver, Colorado, 25 May 2009
- Report of a Committee SET UP TO CONSIDER CERTAIN CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN Sir Henry McMahon AND The Sharif of Mecca IN 1915 AND 1916