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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Casey, Hon. James Joseph

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Casey, Hon. James Joseph, C.M.G., County Court Judge and Land Tax Commissioner Victoria, is the son of the late James Casey, of Tromroe, co. Clare, Ireland, and was born there on Dec. 25th, 1831. He was educated at Galway College, and after five years spent in America he arrived in Victoria in 1855, where he joined the late Mr. Angus Mackay in the purchase of the Bendigo Advertiser, and afterwards started the McIvor Times and Riverine Herald. In 1861 he was elected to the Assembly for Sandhurst, but was unseated on petition. Two years later he was returned for Normanby in the Liberal interest, and continued to sit for that constituency until 1880. In Sept. 1865 he was called to the Victorian bar, and practised with success, being from time to time Crown Prosecutor. From July 1868 to Sept. 1869 he was Minister of Justice in the second McCulloch Administration, exchanging this office for that of Solicitor-General about a fortnight before the defeat of the Government. The next year Mr. Casey was appointed Chairman of a Royal Commission on Intercolonial Legislation and a Court of Appeal. In June 1872 he became Minister of Lands and Minister of Agriculture under Mr. Francis, and held office till August 1875—for the last twelve months of the time under Mr. Kerford, who succeeded Mr. Francis as Premier. Whilst at the head of the Lands Office Mr. Casey reorganised the department, and constituted the survey branch on an effective basis. He also checked the system of "dummyism" by instituting inquiries, and subsequently forfeiting the runs and improvements of the incriminated squatters. In 1878 he was appointed Executive Commissioner for Victoria at the Paris Exhibition, and was created C.M.G. for his services, being also nominated an Officer of the Legion of Honour by the French Government. The Victorian Hansard was established on his motion, and, when in office, he introduced the system of appointing magistrates to districts instead of for the whole colony. The jurisdiction of the County Courts was, on his initiation, increased from £50 to £250 at common law, and an equitable jurisdiction was conferred on them up to £500. Though still claiming to be a Liberal, Mr. Casey assumed an independent attitude towards the second Berry Ministry from 1877 to 1880, and was in consequence ejected from his seat at Mandurang at the general election in the latter year. He did not re-enter parliament, though he unsuccessfully contested Sandridge (now Port Melbourne) in 1883. Mr. Casey, who was the first President of the Federal Bank of Australia, was Executive Vice-President of the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880, and in that capacity, and as Chairman of the Great Britain Committee, contributed much to its success. In April 1884 Mr. Casey, who is the author of "Casey's Justices' Manual," was appointed a County Court Judge; and in July 1885 he assumed the additional functions of a Land Tax Commissioner, being for a short time in that year an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court. Mr. Casey married Mary Teresa, daughter of John Cahill and Mary McNamara his wife.