Virginia Bell

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This article is about the judge. For the actress, see Virginia Bell (actress).
The Honourable Justice
Virginia Bell
AC
Justice of the High Court of Australia
Incumbent
Assumed office
3 February 2009
Nominated by Kevin Rudd
Appointed by Quentin Bryce
Preceded by Michael Kirby
Personal details
Born (1951-03-07) 7 March 1951 (age 63)
Nationality Australian

Virginia Margaret Bell AC (born 7 March 1951) is a Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy. She was sworn in on 3 February 2009.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Bell was educated at SCEGGS Darlinghurst before attending the University of Sydney, where she graduated in law in 1976.[3]

Career[edit]

Bell was admitted as a solicitor of New South Wales in 1977. She was a solicitor at the Redfern Legal Centre from 1978–1984. Between 1982 and 1984, she was a member of the Board of Governors of the Law Foundation.[1]

In 1984, Bell was called to the NSW bar, joining Frederick Jordan Chambers. Bell was appointed a public defender in 1986, returning to private practice in late 1989. She was one of the counsel assisting the Wood Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service between 1994 and 1997. In November 1997, she was appointed Senior Counsel.[1]

Judicial career[edit]

Bell was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 25 March 1999. She was appointed to the Court of Appeal of that court in early 2008, and was sworn out on 19 December 2008. She was sworn in as a judge of the High Court of Australia on 3 February 2009.[1]

Bell was President of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration from 2007–2008. She was Chair of the University of Wollongong Law Faculty Advisory Committee from 2007-2008. From 1998-1999, she served as a part-time Commissioner of the NSW Law Reform Commission.[1]

Honours[edit]

On 26 January 2012, Bell was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for "eminent service to the judiciary and to the law through leadership in criminal law reform and public policy development, to judicial administration, and as an advocate for the economically and socially disadvantaged".[4]

Personal life[edit]

Bell lives in inner Sydney with her female partner, a barrister.[5][6] She has long been involved in the LGBT and human rights issues, participating in the first Mardi Gras LGBT rights rally in Sydney in 1978, which was broken up by police.[7] She is the first lesbian to serve on the High Court, and the second openly LGBT person after Michael Kirby, whom she replaced upon his retirement on 3 February 2009.

On her appointment, Australian Law Reform Commission president David Weisbrot opined that Bell will be a "progressive" jurist in the tradition of Michael Kirby.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e McClelland, Robert (15 December 2008). "New Justice of the High Court" (Press release). Attorney General for Australia. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  2. ^ "High Court gets fourth woman". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Hole, Margaret (25 March 1999). "Swearing In Ceremony of The Honourable Virginia Margaret Bell, SC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW". Supreme Court of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Bell honoured for life of social justice". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "NSW Supreme Court farewells High Court appointee Virginia Bell". The Australian. 20 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Marsden, John (c. 2004). "From Belanglo to Bangkok". I am what I am: my life and curious times. Camberwell, Victoria, Australia: Penguin. p. 71. ISBN 0-670-04052-5. 
  7. ^ "New justice a '78er". Sydney Star Observer. 17 December 2008. 
  8. ^ "Virginia Bell rings in new era for High Court". The Australian. 16 December 2008.