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The ALPHA Hall of Fame is dedicated to, and will feature, Australian lawyers of Greek heritage who have played an active role in developing the law in an important and lasting way or who have made significant contributions to the practise of the law.  It will focus on some of the more notable achievements of those lawyers.  It is also intended that cases or articles of interest to the profession generally, and Phil-Hellenic lawyers in particular, that involve ALPHA’s members or touch upon their work in the legal profession will be posted on the website.  Contributions from members are most welcome.

Jim Conomos

The first inductee to the ALPHA Hall of Fame is James (Jim) William Conomos, former barrister.

Jim grew up in Leichhardt, attended Drummoyne Boys High School and graduated LLB from Sydney University in April 1962.  He went to the Bar on 8 February 1963 and on 8 August 1977 he was appointed a Crown Prosecutor.  Jim was sworn in as a judge of the District Court of New South Wales on 19 April 1985 and resigned from that position on 6 September 1993. 

Jim’s father was originally from Asia Minor and his mother from Kastellorizo.  They came to Australia and married in the 1920’s.  With such a pedigree and upbringing, it’s no wonder Jim is unashamedly a former barrister of the people and for the people, especially clients whose first language is not English.

Although there are numerous examples of Jim’s achievements, Jim’s modesty prevent us from listing them here, however, it must be said that Jim has been a real trailblazer and he continues to be a generous mentor for many a young practitioner who has chosen a career in the law.

 

Theodore Simos

Theodore (Theo) Simos was born in Katoomba, NSW to Zacharias Simos and his wife, Mary (Panaretos).  Zacharias had left his home on the Greek Island of Kythera in 1914 and caught a boat to Australia.  He was then only 14 years old.  He found work in Greek cafes in Tenterfield and Sydney.  In 1916, with the world at war, Zacharias established a café at Katoomba and called it The Paragon (meaning “model of excellence”).  Theo was born at the Paragon in 1934 during the Great Depression.

Theo attended primary school in a Katoomba Church Hall and then Sydney Grammar before proceeding to Sydney University at the age of 15.  He graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA in 1953 and LLB (first class honours) in 1956.  In the course of his undergraduate studies he received the George and Matilda Harris Scholarship for general proficiency in the third year of the four year law course (1954); the John Geddes Memorial Prize for Equity (1954); the John George Dalley Prize for general proficiency in the fourth year of the four year law course (1955); the Sir John Peden Memorial Prize for the greatest proficiency shown in the subjects of constitutional law, the law of property and private international law (1955 – shared) and the WW Monaghan Scholarship for the highest proficiency in the examination in evidence (1955 – shared).  In 1955 he served as the student editor-in-chief of the Sydney Law Review.  He attained the University Medal in Law (1956), the Walter Reed Scholarship (1956) and a University of Sydney Post Graduate research travelling scholarship (1956/57 and 1957/58).

Theo attended Oxford University in 1956.  In 1958 he graduated Bachelor of Letters and in 1959 he graduated Master of Laws from Harvard University where, among other subjects, he studied constitutional law.

Theo was admitted to the Sydney Bar on 8 June 1956.  He read with Anthony Mason, later Sir Anthony, who became Chief Justice of the High Court.  Sir Maurice Byers became another mentor.  Theo made his name in equity, commercial law and intellectual property, arguing appeals before the High Court and the Privy Council.  He was appointed Queens Counsel in 1974.  He lectured at the Sydney University Law School, was a member of the Australian Law Reform Commission and served on the NSW Bar Council.

Theo’s most memorable case as a barrister was the Spycatcher trial in which Theo appeared for the British Government, with Sir Michael Hevers QC, the British Attorney-General.  The British government was then trying to suppress the memoirs of Peter Wright, a former MI5 agent.  The High Court ruled that the case involved political questions and was not suitable for determination in Australian Courts.  The British government was ultimately successful in its application.

Throughout his career at the Bar Theo maintained an active interest in legal education and the administration of the Bar.  At times he was an examiner in equity for the Solicitors and Barristers Admissions Boards; a part-time lecturer in equity at the University of Sydney Law School; and served on the Council of the NSW Bar Association, serving as Honourary Secretary of the Association and as its Honourary Treasurer.  Theo was a member of the Council for Continuing Legal Studies of the NSW Bar Association which conducted seminars for members of the Bar and he also served as editor of the Australian Bar Gazette; Honorary Secretary of the Australian Bar Association; and President of the Harvard Club of Australia.  He was a member of the Council of the Commercial Law Association; a member of the Supreme Court Rules Committee; a member of the Barristers Admission Board; a member of the Joint Examinations Board; President of the Sydney University Law Graduates Association and a director of the Barristers Superannuation Fund Pty Limited.  In 1966 he was a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee for Lawasia.  Between 1982 and 1990 he served as a part-time member of the Australian Reform Commission.

On 31 January 1995, Theo was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.  On the bench, he was seen to be conservative but not narrow, cautious but fair.  He was a legal scholar whose powers of reasoning were admired, a good listener who arrived at judgments through the application of principles.  He enjoyed travel, tennis and fishing when time permitted.

Theo married Helen Donnelly in 1962 and is survived by her, their three children, John (Jack), Paul and Elizabeth and their families, including 8 grandchildren.  Theo passed away on 26 May 2009.