Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gina O’Rourke: Leading prosecutor appointed to the District Court

Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done." 

~ Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice

Gina O’Rourke SC was sworn-in as a judge of the District Court at ceremonial on Tuesday 30 January 2018 at 9.00am on Level 21 of the John Maddison Tower. Michael McHugh SC spoke on behalf of the New South Wales Bar. Barristers wore wigs and gowns. Senior counsel wore full-bottomed wigs. Swearing-in ceremony for Gina O'Rourke SC


You may have seen the statue of a woman in front of the Supreme Court. She is seated and holds a sword. She is Themis and, as adviser to Zeus, she personifies justice. Although a woman has commonly represented justice in this way in Australia and other common law countries, there were no female judges in the legal system established by British settlers in Australia until 1965. In that year, Roma Mitchell was appointed to the Supreme Court of South Australia. It is said that, on her appointment, one of her colleagues remarked:
I don’t believe in women in the profession, but Roma’s different. She’s got a man’s mind.[1]
In 1983, when Justice Mitchell retired there were no other women on any Australian State or Territory court. It took another twenty years or so from her appointment before another woman joined senior judicial ranks. Justice Jane Matthews was appointed to the New South Wales Supreme Court in 1987. Also in 1987, Justice Mary Gaudron was appointed to the High Court. Until the 10th February this year, there was one woman on the Court of seven. Women's law collective: experiences of women in the courtroom


Leading prosecutor appointed to the District Court

In the corridors of the DPP building on Liverpool St, crown prosecutor Gina O'Rourke is known for having a forensic eye for detail.
At one stage, part of her job was to inspect committal briefs for experienced lawyers to make sure they would stand up to the rigours of a committal hearing.
Currently, she's working on a career case as the prosecutor in the Ron Medich murder trial.
The gossipmongers at legal watering hole, the Crown Hotel, whisper that they case is "begging for a counsel" but O'Rourke hasn't put a foot wrong. Sydney's top barristers, solicitors and lawyers who handle the city's biggest cases


Gina O'Rourke

Bachelor of Arts and Law, UTAS, graduated 1992.
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies, UTAS, graduated 1993.
Crown Prosecutor, NSW Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.
Recently Gina O'Rourke was one of only three women appointed Senior Counsel by the NSW Attorney General. She spoke to the Faculty about her experience at UTAS Law School and her subsequent career which has taken her all over the country
"I knew the Law Faculty had a great reputation and I wanted to stay in Tasmania and be close to my family who lived in Ulverstone at the time. 
UTAS provided me with an opportunity to mature, gain my independence in a warm environment, create lifetime friendships and instil a love of the law.
Prior to attending UTAS I was very keen to practice law but my time at UTAS confirmed this desire and indeed narrowed the stream of my interest to litigation. When I finished my law degree I was desperate to be an advocate and spend the majority of my time in Court.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my time at UTAS was my friendships with other students who came from around Australia to study at UTAS."

Gina offered the following advice to new students starting their law degrees:
"Do not give up. Some subjects are tedious and boring but overall the law is fascinating. Work out what you are suited to and what you actually enjoy doing, rather than concentrating on what would provide the biggest salary. Maintain a life balance."
After graduating from the Legal Practice course, Gina began her legal career at Legal Aid in Hobart in 1993. She then made the move to the Northern Territory (Darwin) Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, where she remained from 1994 until 1999. In 1999 Gina began working in the Commonwealth Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (Darwin and Sydney), until she was appointed to her present position Crown Prosecutor, NSW Office of Director of Public Prosecutions in 2002.
Gina described one career highlight as her time spent working in the NT where she gained independence and broadened her outlook on life. She spent much time travelling throughout the NT on circuit and setting up Court in remote Aboriginal communities. Gina describes it as a unique experience and rewarding five years.
Gina stated that without doubt, her most rewarding career highlight was her appointment as a Crown Prosecutor for the NSW ODPP in 2002:
"I am very humbled to be appointed to such a privileged role in assisting the criminal justice system in NSW.  I receive enormous satisfaction in my job as I have the chance to make a difference and assist in seeking that justice is done. It is an extremely rewarding career and one that I am very proud of."

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"And it is no less true, that personal security and private property rest entirely upon the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity of the courts of justice." ~ Joseph Story, Supreme Court Justice Via: Stephen Dametto


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