James Merralls awarded honorary law doctorate

February 14 / 128

Elizabeth Alexander AM, University Chancellor presents James Merralls AM QC with a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).  
Photograph Peter Casamento
Elizabeth Alexander AM, University Chancellor presents James Merralls AM QC with a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). Photograph Peter Casamento

James Merralls AM QC has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) by the University at a graduation ceremony for law students in December.

Mr Merralls, who has edited the Commonwealth Law Reports for more than four decades, told the graduating students that the honour was unexpected.

Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean of Melbourne Law School, said the honour bestowed on Mr Merralls reflected his unstinting dedication to law reporting at the highest of standards.

"A leading silk, a committed teacher and the doyen of editors of law reports in Australia, Mr Merralls has made a substantial contribution to the administration of justice in this country," she said.

Mr Merralls is best known for his unmatched term as editor of the Commonwealth Law Reports, which are an essential part of Australia’s common law system. 

Appointed in 1969, Mr Merralls has supervised the reporting of judgements of the High Court of Australia for more than forty years. As editor, he brings extensive legal knowledge, personal integrity and meticulous attention to detail to the reports, which are highly regarded by the justices of the Court.

Mr Merralls graduated from Melbourne Law School in 1958. He was admitted to legal practice in April 1960 and signed the roll of the Victorian Bar in that month. He maintained an active involvement in legal education as a resident law tutor at Trinity College and teacher at Melbourne Law School. 

In 1974 Mr Merralls was appointed Queen’s Counsel in Victoria. A leading barrister, he has an extensive practice in constitutional law and equity and has served on numerous committees, including as chairman of the Constitutional Law Committee of the Law Council of Australia.

Mr Merralls was among a handful of law students responsible for the first issue of the Melbourne University Law Review. 

"There were twelve of us… The founding father of the review was Professor Zelman Cowen. We were the founding infants. But, even in infancy, we were given a free hand," he said.

With a career dedicated to expressing information with precision and clarity, Mr Merralls had wise thoughts to share with the new graduates on the avalanche of material available in the common law system today.

A visiting fellowship at Melbourne Law School in Mr Merralls’ name is being established in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the law.


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