It is with great sadness that we must report that the Honourable Jack Austell Lee, AO QC, passed away on Wednesday, 17 May, 2006. Mr. Justice Lee was a most staunch defender of our Constitution and the role of the Crown in it.
His Honour was born in Wellington, New South Wales in 1921. After graduating in law with first class honours, a coveted distinction awarded sparingly by the University of Sydney, he was admitted briefly as a solicitor, before being called to the bar in 1945.
After a successful career at the bar, during which he took silk, he was made a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1966, becoming Chief Judge at Common Law in 1988. As Royal Commissioner he presided over the Blackburn Royal Commission in 1991 and 1992.
When His Honour reached the mandatory retirement age, he was invited by the Attorney General to continue as an acting judge, testament to the regard he was held in legal circles.
According to the terms of the appointment, a silk or Queen’s Counsel is declared to be “One of Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law.” His Honour demonstrated this not only in his advocacy and in his judgements, and in his teaching at the law school, but also in his considerable contributions to the literature of the law, particularly in those difficult and arcane areas relating to stamp duties and other forms of taxation, and the law of landlord and tenant. His volumes soon became the leading references in these areas of the law.
With his wife, the elegant and beautiful Nancy Rosemary Lee, née Wolridge, they were a much admired and popular couple in legal and other circles, including those of the International Law Association, to which His Honour was particularly committed as a leading member of the ILA executive.
A public spirited man, he served on several legal, charitable and public organisations, including the Sutherland Hospital and the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education. From 1993, His Honour served as Chairman of the ACM Legal and Constitutional Committee and in that role gave valuable and incisive advice, before, during and after the 1999 referendum. He was also Chairman of the Foundation for Australian Constitutional Research and Studies from 1995 to 1999.
As a member of the National Council of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, and of its corporation, His Honour played a significant role in assuring the proper governance, fiscal compliance and financial probity of the organisation, particularly during the demanding time of the 1999 referendum campaign.
In that and other roles he was always charming and eloquent, readily offering wise and pragmatic advice which frequently and typically involved the most considerable and thorough research on his part.
He was always sustained in all of this by his wife Nancy, who was a pillar of support in all his activities, including those relating to ACM. His Honour, Mr Justice Jack Lee will be sorely missed. Australians for Constitutional Monarchy extends to Mrs Nancy Lee, our deepest sympathies.
A memorial service will be held at St James’ Church, King Street, Sydney
, in the heart of Sydney’s legal precinct, on Friday, the 9th of June, 2006 at 1.30PM.