Monday, October 15, 2012

Ave Atque Vale Paul Seaman

Unfortunately, this blog appears to becoming an obituary column.

Many things will be said about Paul Seaman as he was a distinguished high court judge. This post will be unique in that it will attempt to honour a part of Paul's life that is not associated with his contributions to the law.

Reading some of the obituaries, I see reference to the Honourable Paul Seaman QC. It is one of the rare instances when the title - Honourable - fits.

Paul engaged in private lessons with Jan de Jong for many years. He was motivated to undertake these lessons due to threats made against him during his career. He was to remain a friend of De Jong's from that day forward.

Another enduring friendship he made from jujutsu was with Greg Palmer. Greg came to instruct Paul, and Paul returned the favour by regularly beating him at golf. Unfortunately, all three gentleman, and I use that word advisedly, have now passed away.

Paul's training with De Jong forever left an impression on those who would later train with him. Even though he was an older gentleman and was not physically impressive, he had a hard edge to his technique.

I always remember a story he told me about how he came to do his articles to qualify as a lawyer. It must have been in the 1950s as he qualified in Australia in the early 1960s. He studied law after doing a stint in the UK Army. Upon graduation, Paul took out an advertisement in The Times, advertising that if you were not prepared to pay X then don't bother replying. Apparently he was inundated with offers. He chose to do articles with some obscure firm because they had a practitioner that Paul thought he could learn from.

Paul was the first person I ever heard refer to De Jong as 'master.' Neither put any credence to the use of titles, so it made it all the more special. To see a High Court judge addressing a man as 'master' naturally was something to behold, and to learn from. It demonstrated a humility that can only come from self confidence and self awareness.

Paul was the most intelligent person I have ever met. His mind was something to behold. It is a tragic irony that it was his mind that was to betray him and cause his death.

Paul has a reputation as being 'down to earth' and a man of the people. I recall a story about him where a lawyer was pontificating, as they are want to do, when asking a defendant in the dock a question. After a number of attempts at asking the same question, to which the defendant had no idea what the lawyer was trying to ask, Paul leaned down from the bench and explained, 'He's trying to ask, did you do it?'

I also recall in Greg's dojo, when Paul informed me that he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons. He was informing me of a horrible death sentence. The grace and dignity with which he informed me is now fully appreciated. There is a lot to admire about Paul.

Ave atque vale, hail and farewell, Paul.

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