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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hood, Sir Joseph Henry (1846–1922)

by J. McI. Young

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sir Joseph Henry Hood (1846-1922), judge, was born on 1 June 1846 in Melbourne, son of John Hood, Irish-born chemist and member of parliament, and his wife Jane, née Plummer. Educated at Scotch College in 1859-64, he won the prize for 'best mathematical scholar' in 1863. He enrolled at the University of Melbourne in 1864 where he studied both arts and law (B.A., LL.B., 1868; M.A., 1874), consistently gaining second-class honours. He was called to the Bar on 9 December 1868 and quickly established a large practice in the County Court. It was said that there were few cases of any note in that court in which he did not appear on one side and (Sir) Frank Gavan Duffy on the other. In due course he obtained a practice on the common law side of the Supreme Court. In 1882 he was one of the first barristers to take chambers in Selborne Chambers.

Hood was appointed an acting judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria on 1 February 1890 during the absence on leave of Mr Justice (Sir Edward) Holroyd. He was the first barrister born and educated in Melbourne to reach the bench. On the death of Mr Justice Webb in October 1891, his appointment was made permanent. Thereafter he sat continuously in the court, save for a holiday in England in 1905, until April 1916 when his health broke down. An able and sound lawyer, he was a very rapid worker, earning, it is said, the sobriquet of the 'lightning judge'. In spite of Frank Gavan Duffy's comment 'But less fast were more fair' in his poem 'A Dream of Fair Judges', Hood seems at all times to have been very careful and conspicuously fair. Clearness of mind and close analytical reasoning marked his judgments. He was fearless, independent and outspoken. When at the Bar, Hood often took technical objections but as a judge he deprecated them. When counsel urged a technical objection before him his response was 'How are you hurt?' He had a robust common sense and was a strong and popular judge. He insisted on decorum in his court but was not without a sense of humour and enjoyed telling an anecdote against himself.

Some time after the breakdown in his health he resumed his place on the bench. On 3 June 1920 he was knighted. He resigned on 31 December 1921 on the ground of ill health, having been on leave for twelve months. He died at his home in Alexandra Street, East St Kilda, on 28 January 1922 and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

As a young man Hood was keenly interested in sport. He played in the first XI at Scotch College and subsequently became a notable oarsman. He rowed first with the Melbourne university crew but later joined the Richmond Club. For some time he contributed the rowing notes to the Australasian. He retired from rowing in 1873. He had no significant hobbies but was a wide reader and a regular visitor to the library of the Melbourne Athenaeum. He was an examiner in the law faculty of the University of Melbourne in 1880-81, 1884 and 1887 and was a member of the university council from 1891 until his death.

On 8 November 1869 at St John's Church, Melbourne, Hood had married Georgina McKee. She survived him with four daughters and two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, 1913)
  • P. A. Jacobs, Judges of Yesterday (Melb, 1924)
  • A. Dean, A Multitude of Counsellors (Melb, 1968)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Feb 1890, 3 June 1920, 30 Jan 1922.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. McI. Young, 'Hood, Sir Joseph Henry (1846–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 11 August 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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