Inside the Mason Court Revolution

The High Court of Australia Transformed

by Jason L. Pierce

Tags: Comparative Law, International Law, Legal History

Table of Contents (PDF)

344 pp  $50.00

ISBN 978-1-59460-061-6

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This book examines the Australian High Court's enormously controversial and politically explosive transformation during the 1990s. Led by Chief Justice Anthony Mason, the Court embarked on a concerted effort to recast its role within Australia's legal and political systems. The Court moved to the storm center of Australian politics as it became a catalyst for reforms that appeared unobtainable through parliamentary means, including rights for Australia's indigenous population and free speech protections. Securing unprecedented access to Australia's High Court and senior appellate judges, Pierce describes how the transformation unfolded, identifies the conditions that encouraged it, and explores how the Mason Court reforms have attenuated in recent years in the face of a hostile conservative government and in the absence of formal support structures, such as a bill of rights. The book situates the High Court's transformation in the wider context of similar changes that occurred in other common law judicial systems during recent decades, including the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

"Inside the Mason Court Revolution is the 'go to' book for a solid, accessible analysis of recent jurisprudential changes on Australia's High Court, an informative explanation of why these changes occurred, and thoughtful commentary on how permanent they may be." — Law & Politics Book Review

"Pierce intelligently analyses the reasons for the Court's activism during this period, such as the passage of the Australia Act 1986 and Australia's growing legal independence, the introduction of compulsory retirement for High Court judges, and the requirement for leave to appeal in virtually all cases. This excellent work cogently analyses the criticisms made of the Court during this period that it was too 'activist' and political' for an unelected body." — Law Institute Journal

"The book is based on more than eighty in-depth interviews with the senior judiciary in Australia in the late 1990s… Pierce quotes at length from the interviews, and it is extremely valuable to hear these judges in their own words… the quotes are enormous fun, and can be very thought provoking." — Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal

"Herein lies the book's great importance, Pierce so convincingly argues—utilising the remarks of the very echelon of the Australian profession as support—that how courts function is dependent upon a complex interplay of legal, individual, institutional and political variables that neither camp—lawyer or political scientist—can remain happily in their comfort zone." — Federal Law Review

"Against what sorts of political standards do we assess claims of the use and abuse of judicial powers? The relevance of Pierce's fascinating book is that it provides a fresh answer to this quite fundamental question… Pierce deserves many non-Australian readers." — The American Review of Politics

"Pierce has thoroughly researched his subject and, for that reason, this book is a worthwhile addition to any library." — Precedent Magazine

"[T]he judicial comments recorded in this book are in many cases both thoughtful and thought-provoking. They provide great insight into the judicial role and method from those who practise it. Both the divergences and similarities in views are instructive and this material could well prove useful for future studies on the judiciary." — Melbourne University Law Review