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Paul Desmond Finn (1946–2023)

from ANU College of Law website

It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the death of the Honourable Paul Finn on September 27 2023. He was 77. A luminary in the field of law whose impact reached far and wide, Professor Finn’s career was shaped by remarkable achievements.

Born in Brisbane in 1946, former Justice Finn completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1967 followed by a Bachelor of Laws in 1969. In 1977, he completed his PhD at Cambridge University, where he also won the Yorke Prize.

From his early days as an academic at the University of Queensland (1975-76) to his tenure at ANU (1977-95) where he served as head of the law department in the University's Research School of Social Sciences, Professor Finn’s exceptional legal scholarship and inspirational teaching made a profound impact on countless colleagues and students. His achievements as a jurist led to his appointment in 1995 as a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, where he continued to shape the law in brilliant fashion before retiring in 2012.

During his distinguished career, Professor Finn authored two landmark books, Fiduciary Obligations (Law Book, 1977; Federation Press, 2016) and Law and Government in Colonial Australia (Oxford University Press, 1987), along with two other monographs, Official Information (ANU Press, 1991) and Official Misconduct (ANU Press, 1993). His edited eight volumes of essays, published between 1985 and 1996 by Law Book, transformed many areas of public and private law. Professor Finn’s many articles and book chapters were similarly influential, as have many of his Federal Court judgments, several of which have been followed and cited in appellate courts not just in Australia but also in England and Canada.

Professor Finn’s accolades stand as a testament to his intellectual prowess. He was a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. In 2016, his work as a scholar and judge was celebrated at a conference in Canberra organised by Emeritus Professor Tim Bonyhady AM FAAH FASSA. The consequent book, Finn’s Law: An Australian Justice (Federation Press, 2016), edited by Professor Bonyhady, was published in the same year.

Professor Finn's passing leaves a void that can never be filled. His brilliance and unwavering commitment to the law have left an indelible mark on our research and teaching community.

The ANU College of Law mourns the loss of a beloved colleague, teacher and friend. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

* from ANU College of Law website, accessed 19 October 2023,

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Paul Desmond Finn

View the list of ADB articles written by Paul Desmond Finn

Citation details

'Finn, Paul Desmond (1946–2023)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

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