A calling to the law echoes throughout the Morris family of Tasmania, with links to their Hellenic origins rekindled through this year’s inaugural HAL Tasmanian Chapter Oration.
The Oration in February recounted the contribution of Sir John Demetrius Morris to the state as citizen, barrister, administrator and Chief Justice.
Much of the material about Sir John’s life came from documents and accounts from his family, including son John Paul Morris AM, chief magistrate of Tasmania from 1987 to 1994, and grandson David Morris, partner in Hobart law firm Simmons Wolfhagen.
Recollections from John Paul Morris AM included Sir John’s busy and varied life as a family man and the state’s chief justice, balancing travel around the state on judicial duty with hosting visiting dignitaries.
“After the war in particular,” John recalls, “he (Sir John) would sit in Hobart one day, travel to Launceston, sit the next day there, and then come back to Hobart.”
This busy life of his father proved no deterrent for Mr Morris AM, and he too embarked on a career in the law, studying Arts and Law at the University of Tasmania.
He was appointed a magistrate in 1968 at age 37, taking on the role of Senior Magistrate in southern Tasmania in 1977.
He was then appointed the state’s Chief Magistrate in 1987, also contributing to the civic wealth of his state, as had his father Sir John, chairing boards of the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Parole Board of Tasmania, Tasmanian Opera Company and the Tasmanian Council of Social Service.
He was recognized in 1996 as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the law.
It was fitting that part of his memory of Sir John was his father’s visit to Athens for a legal conference in 1955 at the invitation of the International Commission of Jurists.
“This was not long before he died and it was fitting that he went back to the place of his ancestors, having regard to his Greek ancestry,” he recalled.
His son (and Sir John’s grandson), David Morris, attended this year’s Rhodes International Legal Conference as a delegate.
Fittingly, a central conference topic was the exceptional degree of citizen participation in judicial decision-making and democratic government in ancient Athens.
That description aptly illuminates the contribution of the Morris family to the legal and civic life of Tasmania.