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Investments

8

Portfolio Exits

4

About Patrick Keane

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United States

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Choosing High Court justices a matter of good judgment

Aug 14, 2022

Advertisement Unless you are a lawyer or a law student, you have probably never heard of Pat Keane. The Honourable Justice Keane, AC, to give him his proper title, is the oldest person on the High Court. He reaches the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70 at the end of October. Filling Keane’s vacancy will be the first of two appointments the Albanese government will make to the court in this term. The Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel, reaches what judges sarcastically call “the age of statutory senility” in January 2024. Patrick Keane being sworn into the High Court in 2013. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will be now turning his mind to whom to appoint as Keane’s successor. He will also be giving some long-term thought to who should be the next chief justice. Unlike the United States, the appointment of members of Australia’s highest court is seldom controversial. That is because, with rare exceptions, attorneys-general from both sides of politics have had the good sense to recommend eminent men and women in whom the public can have complete confidence. On the four occasions that I took recommendations to cabinet for High Court appointments (Justices Nettle, Gordon and Edelman, and Kiefel as chief justice) there was near to universal acceptance of my choices. The only murmur of criticism came from a few on the extreme right, who complained that the appointees were not ideological enough. Which they were not; they were chosen on merit alone. I took the straightforward view that those who sit on the High Court should be the most accomplished lawyers in the land. Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was nominated by George Brandis. Credit:AAP The appointment of High Court judges is a process over which the attorney-general usually has almost complete control. It is he or she who decides what name to take to cabinet. Most, if not all, political colleagues will have no idea who the nominee is. They look to the attorney-general as the one person familiar with the senior members of the judiciary and the bar and, basically, trust your judgment. Of course, it is prudent to clear the name with the prime minister first. When Sir William Deane retired in early 1996, Tony Fitzgerald was understood to be the nominee of his fellow Queenslander Michael Lavarch, until Paul Keating (having been lobbied, so it was rumoured, by Neville Wran) blindsided his attorney-general with Michael Kirby. A recommendation is made after consultation, although there is little but custom to govern who should be consulted. The only formal requirement is s. 6 of the High Court of Australia Act, which requires the Commonwealth Attorney-General to “consult with the attorneys-general of the states” (although not of the territories). That usually consists simply of a letter soliciting their views; predictably, they propose a senior judge or barrister from their own state. When Nicola Roxon was the attorney-general, she extended me, as her shadow, the courtesy of seeking my views; it was a practice which I followed when Dreyfus was my shadow. The most important consultations are with the senior members of the judiciary. This is ultimately at the attorney’s discretion, but by convention the chief justice of the High Court, other members of the court, the heads of the other federal courts and the leaders of the legal professional bodies should be consulted. The attorney-general’s department will also put forward its views. What surprised me was how self-selecting the shortlist is. While there are many eminent judges and QCs, like any profession, the best of the best are generally acknowledged as such by their peers – their reputations won by decades of practice and the respect their judgments command. The attorney-general also must pay heed to the federal structure: the court should not be too much dominated by a single state. (In the late 20th century, due to the high number of judges from Sydney, Victorian barristers would sarcastically refer to it as the New South Wales Court of Appeal.) Advertisement Some attorneys regard age as a factor: governments want their nominee to be there for a long time. I was not particularly concerned about that; my recommendations included the oldest-ever judge, Geoffrey Nettle (who was 64) and the second-youngest, James Edelman who, God willing, will still be a member of the court in 2044. Loading There are three types of appointee to avoid. First, ideologues. Some “conservative” commentators complained that my recommendations had not been right-wing enough. During her brief political career, the former Queensland senator Amanda Stoker made this something of a cause. Yet to appoint judges by applying an ideological test would be a deeply unconservative thing to do. Above all, avoid frustrated politicians. Since public confidence in judges depends upon acceptance of their impartiality as the arbiters of disputes – and the disputes which reach the High Court are the most vexed and politically consequential of all – the worst type of judge is someone who regards the bench as a substitute for the parliament; as a safe space from which to prosecute political causes and enjoy, vicariously, the political career they never had. Of course, the members of the High Court have their own political views: Keane, for instance, in the days when I knew him at the Queensland bar, left nobody in any doubt he was a proud Labor man. Yet it would be impossible to discern political partiality in any of his judgments; in fact, he has been one of the most orthodox, conservative interpreters of the Constitution. If legal eminence is the only criterion, a judge’s politics should not matter; but if judges are appointed for their political affiliations or ideological sympathies, we are on the slippery slope to America, where public confidence in the Supreme Court has evaporated in partisan frenzy. Loading Third, we must never let the current vogue for identity politics corrupt the selection of judges. The High Court is not a representative institution; it is an impartial one. It is for the very reason that the court’s decisions can have such profoundly important political consequences that its bench should not be an aggregation of representative voices from various sections of the community. That is what parliament is for; it is not the judicial function. Australia has done very well from having, as the ultimate arbiter of its most important disputes, a court whose members are illustrious but not famous, powerful but not partisan; umpires not players, identified with neither a cause nor a group. People who can walk down the street unrecognised because they are not controversial; whose very anonymity is a silent expression of the confidence the public has in their impartiality. People like Pat Keane. The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here. Save

Patrick Keane Investments

8 Investments

Patrick Keane has made 8 investments. Their latest investment was in Brandfolder as part of their Seed VC on January 1, 2015.

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Patrick Keane Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

1/22/2015

Seed VC

Brandfolder

$2M

Yes

1

1/22/2014

Series C

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$99M

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10

11/20/2013

Series A

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$99M

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10

2/13/2013

Seed VC

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$99M

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10

6/14/2012

Seed - II

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$99M

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0

Date

1/22/2015

1/22/2014

11/20/2013

2/13/2013

6/14/2012

Round

Seed VC

Series C

Series A

Seed VC

Seed - II

Company

Brandfolder

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Amount

$2M

$99M

$99M

$99M

$99M

New?

Yes

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Co-Investors

Sources

1

10

10

10

0

Patrick Keane Portfolio Exits

4 Portfolio Exits

Patrick Keane has 4 portfolio exits. Their latest portfolio exit was Sharethrough on February 09, 2021.

Date

Exit

Companies

Valuation
Valuations are submitted by companies, mined from state filings or news, provided by VentureSource, or based on a comparables valuation model.

Acquirer

Sources

2/9/2021

Merger

$99M

5

8/24/2020

Acquired

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$99M

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10

11/8/2018

Acquired

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$99M

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10

4/23/2015

Acquired

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$99M

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10

Date

2/9/2021

8/24/2020

11/8/2018

4/23/2015

Exit

Merger

Acquired

Acquired

Acquired

Companies

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Valuation

$99M

$99M

$99M

$99M

Acquirer

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Sources

5

10

10

10

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