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Patrick Keane

The Honourable Justice
Patrick Keane
Justice of the High Court of Australia
Assumed office
1 March 2013
Nominated by Julia Gillard
Appointed by Quentin Bryce
Preceded by Dyson Heydon
Personal details
Born 26 October 1952
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Shelley
Occupation Barrister,

Patrick Anthony Keane QC (born 26 October 1952 in Brisbane) is a Justice of the High Court of Australia and a former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.

Early life and education

Patrick Anthony Keane was born to Patrick and Margaret Keane in a family of Irish descent[1] and was raised in Wilston, a middle-class, inner-city suburb north of Brisbane CBD, Queensland. The senior Patrick was an RAAF aviator who died from a heart attack when the younger Patrick was 7.

Keane was educated at Catholic schools, namely St. Columba's Convent School and St. Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace in Brisbane,[2] where he was the school captain and dux of 1969, winning an Open Scholarship in the Queensland Senior Public Examinations.[3] After eliminating other vocations, he matriculated at the University of Queensland to study a Bachelor of Arts, graduating in 1973, and, later, a Bachelor of Laws, graduating with First-Class Honours and a University Medal in 1976.[4]

During his studies, Keane worked as a law clerk at Roberts & Kane Solicitors and was headhunted by Feez Ruthning (now Allens Linklaters) by one of the partners.[5]

Subsequent to this, Keane read for a Bachelor of Civil Law at Magdalen College of the University of Oxford and was awarded the Vinerian Scholarship, a scholarship given to the student that "gives the best performance in the examination for the Degree of Bachelor of Civil Law".[2] Having earned a B.C.L. with First-Class Honours in 1977, he then returned to Australia.


Pre-judicial career

Keane was admitted as a Solicitor and Barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1976 and went to the bar, as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland, in 1977.[6] During 1978–1979, he was a part-time lecturer at the University of Queensland.[6]

In 1988, after 11 years at the bar, Keane took silk.[6]

In 1992, Keane was appointed Solicitor-General for the State of Queensland, a position he served under Labor and Coalition state governments, held until his appointment as a Judge of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Queensland.[6][7]

Keane has published a number of articles and has been outspoken on the quality of legislative drafting. During 1990–1992, he was the Deputy Chairman of the Queensland Law Reform Commission.[8] In 2011, he condemned the "volume and complexity of federal laws", telling the Australian Financial Review that "opening the tax act is like entering the door to a parallel universe".[9]

Judicial career

In 2005, Keane was appointed a Judge of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Queensland, the highest court in that state.[10]

On 10 February 2010, Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced that Keane would be appointed as the next Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.[11] Keane took up that role on 22 March 2010.[12]

High Court career

On 20 November 2012, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced that Keane had been appointed a Justice of the High Court of Australia effective on the retirement of Dyson Heydon on 1 March 2013.[13] Keane became the 50th Justice appointed to the High Court.[14] Keane's seat as Chief Justice on the Federal Court bench will be filled by James Allsop, the president of the NSW Court of Appeal.[15]

Personal life

In 1974, aged 22, Keane married Shelley, with whom he has three children – all sons – and four grandchildren. His wife, Dr. Shelley Keane, is a psychologist. is His son Patrick was born in Oxford in December 1976. His son David is a barrister.

The Australian reported that Keane is said to have been close to Prime Minister and fellow Queenslander Kevin Rudd and that Keane has been described, by one unnamed Brisbane barrister, as a "Labor man".[15] Keane's appointment met with bipartisan approval: the Liberal Party's justice spokesperson, Senator George Brandis QC, described Keane's appointment as "the right decision" and Keane himself as a "very, very distinguished lawyer, both academically and professionally" with "a very illustrious reputation".[15]

Keane is a supporter of the Brisbane Lions and the Carlton Blues AFL clubs[2] and enjoys cricket, even having once considered playing the sport professionally.[5]


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