Australian Government Lawyer Receives Scholarship to Study Constitutional Law
Anthony Hall ’18 LL.M., an attorney for the Australia Government Solicitor (AGS), was drawn to government service for the chance to work on matters of public interest.
“You can be a strong advocate for the rule of law,” said Hall, on temporary leave from the AGS’s Office of General Counsel. “In highly politicized times, it’s often public sector lawyers who play a central role in assisting governments to ensure their legislative and executive actions comply with the rule of law.”
Hall has a strong interest in constitutional law, which made him a perfect candidate for the AGS’s inaugural George Witynski Senior Counsel Constitutional Law Scholarship. The AGS created the post-graduate scholarship in constitutional law to honor the legacy of Witynski, a 1980 Columbia Law School LL.M. alumnus who died in 2016. Witynski was a longtime AGS attorney whom the Sydney Morning Herald called “one of the finest government lawyers of his generation.”
The scholarship enabled Hall to study at any law school. Hall chose to use the scholarship to study at Columbia Law School. “I think the breadth and depth of public law courses at Columbia Law School make it highly desirable for Australian public sector lawyers looking to do an LL.M,” he said.
Although Hall didn’t have the opportunity to work with Witynski, he said Witynski “was a very eminent public lawyer, a friend and mentor to colleagues, and a gifted writer.” His work had a “huge influence” on AGS practice, particularly in the area of constitutional law.
Hall has tangled with several thorny constitutional and other public law questions since he joined the AGS in 2010. He was on a team that represented the Australian government in a long-running dispute involving the liquidation of nearly $2 billion in assets from private companies known as the Bell Group. In 2016, the country’s highest court ruled in favor of the Australian government, finding that a state law taking control of the assets was unconstitutional, in part because it violated federal tax laws (the Commonwealth of Australia, specifically the Australian Taxation Office, was a Bell Group creditor because of tax liabilities).
At Columbia Law School, Hall is taking courses in constitutional, administrative and national security law and plans to utilize the knowledge and experience he gains at Columbia to further his career with the Australian government. He noted that Australian courts regularly look to the U.S. in matters of constitutional law; Australia, like the U.S., has a common law system and the American model was “a significant point of reference for the Australian Constitution.”
Published November 20, 2017