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Encounters with Constitutional Interpretation and Legal Education

Essays in Honour of Michael Coper




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AUD $135.00 gst included

What do constitutional interpretation and legal education have in common?

For one thing, they share the same tension between theory and practice, between form and substance, between process and outcomes, between constancy and change, and between local and comparative perspectives. Each also has a substratum of fundamental underlying values that demand, but do not always receive, clear articulation.

For another thing, they have both been the subject of illuminating examination by Michael Coper over the course of his long and distinguished career.

An extraordinary group of authors, including Justice Stephen Gageler, the Hon Michael Kirby and Sir Anthony Mason, come together in this book to celebrate Coper’s achievement, and take his various contributions as a jumping off point for their own further scholarly insights.

From the gripping story of the revolution that swept away the old law on section 92 of the Constitution, to the endemic conflict in the judicial process between legalism and realism, to the never-ending controversy about the Dismissal, to perceiving the world and organising legal knowledge in new ways through biography and oral history, to the role of educators in shaping the views and values of newcomers to this knowledge, this book contains over a dozen sparkling essays by some of Australia’s most renowned and respected lawyers, as well as a substantial reflective commentary by Michael Coper himself.

An intellectual feast!

About the Contributors

Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

         The Hon Sir Anthony Mason

Prologue:  Encounters with Michael Coper’s Career and the Search for New Ways Forward
         John Williams

Part I: Three Constitutional Conundrums

1.  The Section 92 Revolution
         The Hon Stephen Gageler

2.  The Elusive Promise of the Inter-State Commission
         Andrew Bell SC

3.  Power and Propriety: Coper’s Encounter with the Dismissal
         Ryan Goss

Part II: The ‘Intractable Dilemma’ of the Judicial Process

4.  New Ways Forward
         The Hon Michael Kirby

5.  Between Realism and Legalism: Michael Coper and the Enduring Appeal of Cole v Whitfield
         Adrienne Stone

6.  Fidelity to External (Re)sources
         Tony Blackshield

Part III: Ways of Seeing and ‘Collecting the World’

7.  Law Through the Lens of Biography
         Heather Roberts

8.  Through the Lens of Oral History
         Garry Sturgess

9.  Through the Lens of an Encyclopaedia
         Helen Irving

Part IV: Lawyering and Leadership

10. Being a Lawyer: Professionalism, Values and Service
         Kim Economides

11.  Being a Law Dean: Aspiration and Reality
         Stephen Bottomley

12.  Being a Global Leader: Challenges of Internationalisation
         Duncan Bentley


         Michael Coper

Michael Coper — Select Publications


This book is yet another excellent Federation Press resource that collects together articles and commentaries with a common legal theme or subject matter.

Each of the authors had a personal or professional association with Michael Coper; and some associations were quite close. The book has a hydra-like structure. Its four parts address quite different aspects of the multifaceted contribution that Professor Coper made to the study and development of constitutional law, the judicial process and as a Law Dean.

Graeme Johnson, Australian Law Journal, (2020) 94 ALJ 155

For a constitutional lawyer whose law school has just been reviewed by Michael Coper, it seemed karmic to review this book. Coper has made many illustrious contributions to constitutional law and legal education in his long career. He wrote a PhD and book on section 92, and had the satisfaction of the High Court unanimously adopting his view in Cole v Whitfield, in which he also appeared. He wrote Encounters with the Australian Constitution (1987), perhaps the only book on the Constitution that can be read for pleasure. He was a member of the briefly revived Inter-State Commission 1985-1988. He was Dean of ANU College of Law from 1998 to 2013. He has also taken a close interest in the judicial process, especially that of the High Court, and is a strong advocate of more statutory interpretation in law school. His passions for photography and oral history lead to a section exploring law and his life through different lenses. These interests and activities form the themes of the essays in this book, collected from a conference in 2016, including contributions from Stephen Gageler, Michael Kirby, Tony Blackshield, Adrienne Stone, Garry Sturgess, to name only a few. These encounters with the man and his passions through the lenses of experts who share them, will also lead readers to Coper’s own extensive and excellent writings.

Dr Matt Harvey, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, August 2018

Professor Coper will be known personally or by reputation to many of our readers. Briefly, Professor Michael Coper AO FAAL graduated from Sydney Law School in 1970, was a founder of the UNSW Law School from 1971 and served as Dean of the ANU College of Law from 1998 – 2012. He was appointed Emeritus Professor of the ANU in 2017 and in 2018 he was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to legal education. His book, ‘Encounters with the Australian Constitution’ which was first published in 1987 remains ‘the most accessible and exquisitely written exposition of Australian constitutional law’.

The contributors to this collection of essays include current and former justices of the High Court, leading members of the private Bar, and leading academics. Constitutional scholars and practitioners will appreciate the reflections and commentary on Professor Coper’s contribution to the development of constitutional law in this country. The essays also cover Professor Coper’s great interest in legal history exemplified by his role as an interviewer in the High Court of Australia Oral History project, and the volume would no doubt be incomplete without reflections on Professor Coper’s contribution to legal education. The collection ends with a reflective essay by Professor Coper himself. The essays will doubtless be of particular interest to those who know Professor Coper and are familiar with his work.

Queensland Law Reporter – 3 August 2018 – [2018] 30 QLR

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