The humiliation of Marcus Einfeld is now complete. The NSW Court of Appeal struck him off this week, concurring with the argument of the NSW Bar Association that he is not a “fit and proper person” to practice as a lawyer ever again.

Einfeld arrives at the NSW Supreme Court for sentencing in March this year. Picture: Lindsay Moller

Representing the Bar Association, Barrister Christine Adamson SC said Einfeld’s speeding case showed he considered himself to be “above the law” and displayed “extraordinary hubris” in thinking he could use his “skill and ingenuity” as a respected lawyer of some 40 years to trick a court into cancelling a speeding fine.

A $77 speeding fine.The public reveled in it, as Einfeld for many years had been one of the greatest offenders of the deep-seated Australian belief that being massively up yourself is close on the worst crime a person can commit.

His gleeful acquiescence to the cringeworthy title of “national living treasure” - bestowed upon him by a panel of soft left poncho-enthusiasts in the dying days of the Keating era - was of itself a clear sign that the bloke was in love with himself.

As such, his shaming has followed the manner of a solider being stripped of his epaulettes after a dishonourable discharge - the order of Australia, the Queen’s Counsel appointment, the “Justice” title, all of them binned, with the concession by his own legal team in court this week that even Einfeld now thinks he should never be allowed to practice again.

The popular take on the Einfeld affair is - all this for a $77 fine. It’s a classic demonstration of the truism that a little lie can quickly turn into a very big one.

There isn’t a person left in Australia who doesn’t know about this case. What is less well known is how close Einfeld came to getting away with it.

The original story which appeared in the first edition of The Daily Telegraph on August 8, 2006, about the Marcus Einfeld case was three sentences long. It blandly recorded the fact that a court had cancelled Einfeld’s speeding fine because he had explained in a statutory declaration that the car was being driven at the time by a friend, Florida academic Professor Teresa Brennan.

Journalists often get a serious case of the Woodward and Bernsteins about the manner in which they go about their work; at events nights such as the Walkleys, our industry can display all the bombastic self-importance ascribed above to a figure such as Einfeld.

The back story to this jaw-dropping fall from grace involves nothing more than curiosity, luck, and natural persistence driven by the dead-obvious realisation that the newspaper, of which I was editor at the time, had stumbled across something extraordinary.

Two things happened in the newsroom that night which sealed Einfeld’s fate, starting with the publication of this story on page nine of the second edition.

The first major story on the Einfeld case, August 8, 2006.

Both these things could so easily have gone undone amid the usual madness and time demands of producing a newspaper, where a story which is originally destined for a three-paragraph run on the bottom of page 11 generally receives scant attention.

As luck would have it - good luck for the paper and particularly bad luck for Marcus Einfeld - it was a seasoned news veteran in Michael Beach and a very green, unfailingly polite and chirpy young court reporter in Viva Goldner who ended up collaborating on a story which ultimately won them a Walkley and a News Award for the scoop of the year.

My role was to sit in the big office eating a toasted sandwich and to look up and say “Jesus” when they came in and told me the following.

Michael did a simple Google search on Teresa Brennan to find out who she was and to check the spelling of her name. Every web entry on the high-profile academic recorded the fact that she had died in a hit-and-run car accident in the US well before Einfeld’s car was caught speeding. Michael told Viva, and Viva found a home number for Marcus Einfeld, rang it, and over the course of a 90-second conversation with a 22-year-old reporter not long out of her cadetship, the Judge cooked his own goose.

Viva recounted the conversation as follows:

“I just rang him and said we needed to double-check that it was Teresa Brennan who was driving the car, and he said it was, and I told him that we’d checked on the internet and that the accident she was killed in happened before the speeding fine. He then went quiet and I asked him if he was there, and he said yes. So I asked him how it could be possible that she was driving his car if she was dead. And he paused and then said it was the other Teresa Brennan. I asked him if there were two of them, and he said yes. I asked if she was also from Florida as it said in his statutory declaration and he said, yes, yes, I think so, and then he said he wasn’t sure if it was Theresa with an h, or Therese, but that there were definitely two of them, he didn’t know where she was now, and then he said “I have nothing more to say” and hung up.”

Viva added drily: “If you ask me, he sounded like a bit of a bull**** artist.”

If Einfeld had not picked up the telephone that night and had this excruciating conversation it’s unclear what direction the story would have headed in. Even after the fact, it was an almighty struggle legally to publish it, because our own lawyers warned us that the imputation from our subsequent report was that a respected judge had perjured himself by using the name of a dead friend in a cooked-up stat dec to get out of a $77 speeding fine.

Well, that was the imputation alright. It is exactly what happened.

Personally, I remain amazed that this story ever came out at all. It was one of those moments in journalism when you just sit there in the middle of a story marvelling at the independent life it takes on. 

And while this might sound like the most massively disingenuous call, given the role of our paper in his demise, I can’t help but look at the bloke now - in a society where paedophiles get time off on account of the special attention they receive inside jail, or where drunken thugs who randomly bash people get suspended sentences for their first offence - and think that the punishment for his ego-driven stupidity has been more than ample.

Most commented

17 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • iansand says:

      08:46am | 25/07/09

      Fear of defamation proceedings almost stopped this story getting out.  Exactly why we need a public figure defence to defamation.  Not so much for judges, but for the politicians that earn quite a few tax free dollars from defamation settlements.

    • Bigpeteoz says:

      12:17am | 26/07/09

      D avid, your observation about someone being up themself is spot on. The general public despise those who hide behind a veil of respectability, the general public mostly obey the law and cop it sweet. I, like most other people, have gathered throughout their time on this globe, a number of traffic infringements, which we have defended honestly or paid the penalty. Honestly and honourably, to give us our respect in society. To see a judge lie, cheat and steal from society only cheapens and demeans us all. If we cannot trust those in positions of power, why should the everyman follow the rules. Einfield deserves the full weight of the law and more dealt to himself.

    • davido says:

      03:05am | 26/07/09

      I feel sorry for him. A career ruined over a $77 fine… ridiculous.

      True he made many calculated and wrong decisions so the fault rests totally with him.

      BUT… I wonder how many people realise the significance of minor transgressions are to the career of a judge.
      Like police, judges are held to a very high standard. The consequences for a parking fine are much greater for a judge than you or I.

      So much so that the temptation to avoid the consequences of a minor transgression must be high.

      I hope those people in the media feel happy they ruined someone’s life over a $77 fine. Good one.

    • Steve Symon says:

      11:04am | 26/07/09

      David, you’re kidding yourself surely. It is surely the fact that police and judges alike are both charged and armed with the responsibility of ensuring that every member of the public obeys the law.  Regardless of whether it was a $77 speeding fine or a massive drug importation charge, if the alleged offender was either a member of the police force or the judiciary and was found guilty, whilst the crimes are at completely different ends of the spectrum, they have one thing in common - they have been committed by those who the public need to have complete faith in, if society is going to function successfully. I feel a wee bit of sympathy for Marcus but I’m also left wondering what else he may have got away with during his time as a respected silk.

    • rufus says:

      11:27am | 26/07/09

      Lessons to be learned by other high-profile figures who angle to have their lies undiscovered: 1. do your homework on your alibi and 2. unless there is something that you want the media to report, don’t talk to them.
      Lessons to be learnt by the rest of us: for all the high-moral-ground comments on the Einfeld case, how many of us have gotten away with lying our way out of trouble and wouldn’t hesitate to try it again?

    • flower child says:

      01:02pm | 26/07/09

      Mr. Einfeld wasn’t brought down over a $77 speeding ticket.  He was brought down because he committed perjury and tried to pervert the course of justice. And those are NOT “minor transgressions.”  If you happen to be a judge, former judge, lawyer, or policeman, whose whole being is (or should be) dedicated to the rule of law, then actions which seek deliberately to subvert that rule of law are particularly reprehensible.  While I think the prison term might be a bit harsh for a man of his age, the public humiliation he has brought upon himself is entirely warranted.

    • The plot gets thicker says:

      05:00pm | 26/07/09

      There was a woman in Mr Einfeld’s car that day.
      It was his mistress.

    • davido says:

      05:48pm | 26/07/09

      I guess my point was too subtle for most, it is this: everyone should be held to the same standard. Police and judges should not have to worry about losing their jobs over very minor offences.

      Now I know these people do need to be better than the average person. However if you force them into a position where a minor transgression leads to ridiculous sanctions - then dont be surprised if they fudge things once in a while.

      This sorta of explains why the police always cover each other’s back. And of course the problem with that is this…  that sort of behaviour will eventually lead to corruption.

      My second point is about the media. When the media got involved the offence was very basic a speeding fine. Something that happens to people from all walks of life on a daily basis. This was not extraordinary, it was not unusual and certainly not worthy of sacrificing someones career.

      What sort of scum get satisfaction out of ruining someone’s life for a speeding fine?

    • martinX says:

      08:11pm | 26/07/09

      Davido, I guess the point of the whole court case was too subtle for you. His life wasn’t ruined over a $77 speeding fine. If he had paid the fine, he would still be a judge. No job lost, no ruined life. He wasn’t being hassled to quit for speeding. No, he lied on a stat dec and then committed perjury. It’s that that will get you, me *and* Justice Bloody Einfeld into serious trouble. He ruined his own life by lying.

    • Jonathan says:

      09:06pm | 26/07/09

      Davido, you are a fool of the highest order.  You know as well as we do that a judge would not have any ridiculous sanctions brought against them for a low-level speeding fine.  He would’ve paid the fine and that’s that.  Case closed.
      I suspect you of being a troll, sir.

    • Bill says:

      11:47pm | 26/07/09

      First, it wasn’t about a $77 fine: it was about the demerit points and keeping his licence.

      Second, look at the NSW Appeal Court report: Marcus had done it before.

      I don’t have anything against Marcus, but we let us be realistic about what has occured. It is worth remembering too that we’ve all done things we shouldn’t, perhaps not on this scale, but there but for the Grace of God go all of us.

    • Les Posen says:

      10:26am | 27/07/09

      And of the Melbourne Magistrate who performed similarly with respect to a driving offence and stated it was her father driving at the time, despite his being overseas? Not picked up a reporter but a departmental journeyman worker doing his job. Resigned from her magistracy - we await any police prosecution. More extraordinary given the publicity to the Einfeld case.
      Source: <http://www.theage.com.au/national/magistrate-to-quit-over-speeding-ticket-20090625-cxx9.html\>

      Just goes to show, in both cases, the interplay between intellect and emotion - overlook the importance of the latter, and you ask for trouble.

      Les Posen
      Clinical Psychologist
      Melbourne

    • jboy says:

      11:00am | 27/07/09

      there would be more episodes of ienfeld out there than sienfeld
      avoiding the points is a national sport
      as is tall poppy toppling

    • stephen says:

      11:30am | 27/07/09

      Apparently Mr Einfeld was, according to those in the know, an incompetent
      Federal Court Judge.
      He must be guilty of something.

      (And by the way Mr. Posen, what’s your point ?)

    • davido says:

      01:25pm | 27/07/09

      Wow, some people really don’t know how to read do they?

      I said earlier ‘...so the fault rests totally with him.’ I am not defending his behaviour. I will dumb my points down even further so people can understand…

      1. The VULTURE CULTURE in the media is disgusting and rarely ever fair to its victims. TRIAL by MEDIA should never replace or influence proper judicial procedure.

      2. The RULE OF LAW, a sacrosanct principle of our law, says that everyone should be treated equally under the law. That means a person is treated neither more LENIENTLY nor HARSHER than anyone else depending on who they are.

      3. Corruption is encouraged by systems that do not allow for human nature.
      If you force people into a position where a minor transgression leads to disproportionate sanctions - then DO NOT be surprised if they fudge things once in a while.

    • Peter Callil says:

      07:27pm | 20/03/11

      Agreed.  As Ned Kelly said before his execution, “If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away .”  In Einfeld’s case, it is more associated with the systematic, and systemic persecution and ill treatment of us all to the point that many of us don’t even perceive it as such anymore.  I’m talking about petty traffic offences here.  Not Justice Einfeld personally.

      Truth is that the whole system is corrupt - not just Einfeld.  Speeding is relative to the conditions, external and internal, and it is never argued that Einfeld is dangerous, or had a history of accidents.  Remarkable that this point is considered irrelevant, don’t you think?  And what is more to the point, while the authorites continue to feed off road trauma, the real underlying causes of the majority of accidents are completely ignored.

      I think that is the point.  Looks like Ned’s life was lost in vain eh?

 

Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more

28 comments

Newsletter

Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter