Jesting Pilate

Jesting Pilate

And Other Papers and Addresses by The Rt Hon Sir Owen Dixon

3rd edition

Edited by The Hon Susan Crennan AC QC and Professor The Hon William Gummow AC


Although it is now ninety years since he was first appointed to the High Court and fifty five years since he retired as Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon remains the towering figure in Australian jurisprudence. He is widely viewed as our greatest and most influential judge. While Dixon’s judgments continue to be cited by courts and debated by scholars, his extra-judicial writings have been more difficult to obtain and having accordingly received less attention. The publication of this new expanded edition of Jesting Pilate will help redress the balance, bringing as it does less studied aspects of Dixon’s expansive and worldly intellect to the fore again.

In addition to reorganising the original papers, the Editors have enlarged the collection significantly by including two previously unpublished addresses by Sir Owen Dixon, as well as two papers by Dixon’s former associate and friend James Merralls AM QC which provide important context about Dixon’s life and work. Additionally insight into Dixon’s legacy is provided by the inclusion of important papers by each of the editors. Finally, the speech delivered by Sir Ninian Stephen on the 100th anniversary of Dixon’s birth is included, as is a new Foreword by the Hon Susan Kiefel, Chief Justice of Australia.

As the Editors note in their Introduction:

The materials collected in Jesting Pilate, prepared for disparate occasions, demonstrate aspects of Dixon’s personality which might otherwise remain elusive: the warmth of his friendships, his love of an allusive joke and his perspicacity about world affairs and the personalities shaping them. … It is our hope that this third edition of Jesting Pilate confirms Dixon’s past and continuing contribution to developments in Australian law and reaffirms his stature as a great man.

From the Book Launch Jesting Pilate, address by The Hon Murray Gleeson AC at the Banco Court, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 31 July 2019...

“The Honourable Susan Crennan and the Honourable William Gummow, and The Federation Press, have done an important service to legal history and scholarship by the production of this Third Edition of extra-curial writings and speeches by Sir Owen Dixon, a towering figure of the twentieth century with a reputation of pre-eminence, not only in Australia, but throughout the common law world.
         The Third Edition differs from the earlier editions in two important respects. First, the papers and addresses are re-arranged and helpfully classified in a manner that makes them more accessible. Second, as an introductory section, there are commentaries on Sir Owen Dixon and his work by Sir Ninian Stephen, James Merralls, SEK Hulme and the two Editors themselves. This introductory material is not only valuable in itself, but will also be very useful for modern lawyers who may not be as familiar with Dixon’s place in the legal landscape as people of my generation…” Click here to read the full launch speech

From the Book Launch Jesting Pilate, address by Professor Michael Crommelin AO at the Supreme Court of Victoria Library, 24 July 2019...

“It is a very great honour to be invited to launch this third edition of Jesting Pilate in Melbourne ... The third edition is expanded substantially beyond the original collection of 29 of Sir Owen Dixon’s papers and addresses. It includes no fewer than eight additional items, which reveal much more of Sir Owen as a person, a lawyer and a judge, and his enduring contribution to the law…” Click here to read the full launch speech


Published 27 June 2019
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760021856
Australian RRP $120.00
International Price $110.00