THE man who led a successful High Court bid against the Queensland Court of Appeal in the Gerard Baden-Clay case will now lead the very court he exposed.
Former solicitor-general and one of Australia’s leading barristers Walter Sofronoff, QC, was yesterday appointed President of the Court of Appeal. He steps into the job on Monday.
Aged 63, he will take on the second highest judicial role with no e3xperience as a judge in the lower courts.
But he brings unrivalled appeal experience throughout his 39-years career as a barrister, including last year acting for the Crown in the High Court Baden-Clay appeal that set precedent for how evidence from a murder accessed will be treated at trial.
During that case he dissected errors made by the Court of Appeal and argued it had taken a piecemeal approach when decision to downgrade the jury verdict of murder to manslaughter.
Before that he carved a career in high-stake cases including Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel, the Aurukun nine juvenile gang rape case, complicated appears for Gold Coast killers, the Lacey brothers, and the landmark Wik Peoples case to decide native title rights over pastoral land, all in the High Court.
It is known that Mr Sofronoff would have declined previous offers to take up a position on the bench, but this was now the “right appointment at the right time”. Attorney-General Yvette D”Arth said the role required “someone with exceptional skills and legal qualifications who is highly regarded by the entire legal profession”.
“Walter Sofronoff is that person. He is a brilliant legal mind, and a person of exceptional character and integrity,” she said.
The Queensland Law Society also praised the appointment.
While packing up his chambers in Brisbane, which houses a piano, a rack of guitars and various Superman statues, his official words on his appointment were brief.
“This has been unexpected,” Mr Sofronoff said. “And particularly given the stature of Margaret McMurdo, whom I am replacing, I feel very deeply about the trust that has been placed in me.”