James Cockle was a brilliant mathematician, a future Fellow of the Royal Society, appointed Chief Justice of Queensland in the most stormy and unpromising of circumstances.
When he came to Queensland in 1863, relations between the government and A.J.P Lutwyche, the resident Supreme Court Judge, were in a state of turmoil. Lutwyche, whose expectation of promotion to Chief had been dashed, had recently declared Queensland’s infant Parliament and all its Acts invalid. The Law Officers in England agreed and Lutwyche continued to attack the government, looking for other legislation to invalidate. The Queensland Government begged the Colonial Office to find a Chief Justice in England and Cockle was appointed.
Conciliatory, dignified, scrupulously impartial, and proficient as a lawyer, Cockle calmed the storms left by Lutwyche – and calmed Lutwyche who continued to sit on the bench as junior judge. Yet he was an enigmatic figure who was poorly recognised by Queensland governments. Poorly paid (Lutwyche had the higher salary), he resigned and returned to England and mathematical studies shortly after he qualified for a pension in 1878.
"He was a rare instance of true human virtue. Jane Austen has taught us that tales of virtue can make absorbing reading. In this account, Dr Bennett has done as much for Sir James Cockle."Justice B H McPherson
The Queensland State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir James Cockle and Sir Charles Lilley is available for $90.00 – to order the Queensland State Set, click here.