Challis Lecturer in Equity and Common Law, University of Sydney, 1928 - 1936
Member of Senate, University of Sydney, February 1942 - 28/06/1958
Deputy Chancellor, University of Sydney, April 1946 - March 1953
Deputy Judge, Land and Valuation Court, New South Wales, 02/02/1937 - 24/05/1937
Judge, Land and Valuation Court NSW, 25/05/1937 - 09/09/1947
Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 08/03/1937 - 24/05/1937
Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 25/05/1937 - 28/06/1958
Deputy Judge in Equity, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 1941 - 09/09/1947
Chief Judge in Equity, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 10/09/1947 - 28/06/1958
Judge in Probate, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 10/09/1947 - 28/06/1958
Ernest David Roper (known as David) was born on 1 March 1901 at Orange, New South Wales, the son of Walter James Roper and his wife Hannah Marie nee Gray. He was educated at Armidale District High School, North Sydney High School and the University of Sydney (BA Honours 1921, LLB Honours 1925. (1)
Roper was an award winning student. He won a Public Exhibition scholarship based on his results in the Leaving Certificate examination of November 1917. He received many prizes for his mathematical abilities: the 1918 Barker Scholarship No.II and the 1918 Horner Exhibition; the 1919 George Allen Scholarship for First year mathematics; and the 1920 Barker Scholarship No.I and 1920 Norbert Quirk Prize, both for Second year mathematics. In addition he was awarded the 1920 Anderson Prize in Logical and Mental Philosophy for Second year and the 1921 Anderson Prize in Logical and Mental Philosophy for Third year. His Bachelor of Arts degree included triple Honours: a Class I Honours in both Mathematics and Logic and Mental Philosophy and a Class II Honours in English. He won two 1921 University Medals: for Mathematics and for Logic and Mental Philosophy. In 1925 he achieved Class II Honours in his Bachelor of Laws degree. (2)
Roper was called to the New South Wales Bar on 29 August 1925 and practised out of Chancery Chambers in Phillip Street, Sydney. He specialised in Crown Lands, equity and taxation. He was Counsel assisting the Commonwealth's Royal Commission on income tax presided over by Sir David Ferguson and Edward Nixon. The commission, established on 6 October 1932, looked at the simplification and standardisation of the Commonwealth and States' taxation laws where they related to the same matters, such as income tax, land tax and death duties. The commission's fourth and last report was presented on 19 October 1934 and paid tribute to Roper's 'invaluable assistance'. (3) A member of the Council of the Bar of New South Wales and its successor the New South Wales Bar Association from 1933/1934 to 1936/1937, Roper was its Honorary Secretary from 1934/1935 to 1936/1937. (4)
Roper was interested in education. He was Challis Lecturer in Equity and Common Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, from 1928 to 1936. A member of the Senate of the University from February 1942 till his death, he was Deputy Chancellor of the University from April 1946 to March 1953. Also he was a Director of the United States Educational Foundation in Australia from 1950. The Foundation was established through a treaty between Australian and the United States in 1949. Using money from the sale of surplus American war materials held in Australia, the Foundation administered the Fulbright Scholarships until 1963 when a new agreement and foundation succeeded it. (5)
From February 1937 to September 1947 Roper sat concurrently in the Land and Valuation Court and the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He was appointed a Deputy Judge of the Land and Valuation Court from 2 February 1937 till 24 May 1937. On 25 May 1937 he became the Judge of the Land and Valuation Court, a position he occupied until 9 September 1947. He was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court from 8 March 1937 to 24 May 1937 to sit in the Matrimonial Causes Jurisdiction. Every six months from 1937 to 1939, on 25 May and 25 November, he received an additional commission extending this appointment. When the Administration of Justice Act 1940 (Act No.11, 1940) received assent on 22 May 1940 it decreed that a barrister appointed to be a Judge of the Land and Valuation Court automatically became a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court. This section of the Act was backdated to commence on 25 May 1936. Thus on 22 May 1940 Roper was deemed to have been a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court since his permanent appointment to the Land and Valuation Court on 25 May 1937. In theory this change should have reduced the seniority of the two Puisne Judges appointed to the Supreme Court since May 1937: William Owen and Dudley Williams. However Chief Justice Sir Frederick Jordan decided that Roper would take precedence after Owen and Williams and not before them. By 1941 Roper was the Deputy Judge in Equity and on 10 September 1947 he became the Chief Judge in Equity and the Judge in Probate, a position he held till his death. Amongst the cases he heard was the challenge to the awarding of the Archibald Prize to William Dobell in 1943 when Roper laid down the legal definition of a portrait. (6) Following his death in 1958, Chief Justice Sir Kenneth Whistler Street described him as possessing 'the true judicial temperament .... He had a keen and an acute mind, an all-embracing memory, and a capacity to grasp the essential issues of the problem before him and see them in their true light....' (7)
During World War II, Roper was a member of the Prime Minister's Committee on National Morale. Established by 1943 and chaired by A A Conlon, the committee was set up 'to study national morale and to advise the Government with a view to formulating policy in regard to this matter'. (8)
Roper died on 28 June 1958 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, survived by his wife Elizabeth Isabel (Betty) nee Daniel whom he married on 22 December 1930. They had no children. In 1962 the ED Roper Memorial Fund established two prizes in his memory for law students at the University of Sydney, originally one for Equity in the Four Year Course and one for Equity in the Five Year Course. The ED Roper Memorial Prizes No.I and No.II are now given each year to the students who come first and second in Equity and Corporate Law. In 1962 the gates of North Sydney Boys High School were named after him. (9)
1. Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, 1941, p.577; 1944, p.707; 1947, p.726; 1950, p.619; 1955, p.662; Australian Law Journal, Vol.32, p.96 (21 July 1958); R Else-Mitchell, 'Roper, Ernest David (1901-1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition, http://www.abd.online.edu.au/biogs/A160149bhtm (cited 11 January 2008).
2. University of Sydney Calendar, 1918, pp.398, 405, 536; 1919, p.423-4, 563; 1920, pp.447-8, 594; 1921, p.470-72, 574, 632; 1922, pp.363-4, 371, 385, 396, 408-9, 420, 437, 442, 444, 500, 658, 738; 1923, pp.524, 688; 1924, p.546; 1925, p.545; 1926, pp.487, 639, 648, 816, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/index.php (cited 12 May and 25 November 2008).
3. Barristers Admission Board; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 1876-1926; Reel 2147, p.28; New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1926, p.72; 1937, p.80; 'National Archives of Australia - Agency notes for agency CA2493', http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/Agency Detail.asp?M=3&B=CA+2493 (cited 26 November 2008); R Else-Mitchell, 'Roper, Ernest David (1901-1958)', op.cit.
4. New South Wales Law Almanac, op.cit., 1934, p.57; 1935, p.57; 1936, p.58; 1937, p.58.
5. University of Sydney Calendar, op.cit., 1929, p.867; 1930, p.643; 1934, p.599; 1935, p.610; 1936, p.637; Supplement 1943-1944, p.27; 1945-1946, p.27; 1960, pp.1074, 1084, cited 12 and 27 May, 21 June, 26 November 2008; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; 'Fulbright: About us', http://www.fulbright.com.au/the-commission/about-us.html (cited 26 November 2008).
6. New South Wales Government Gazette, No.17, 5 February 1937, p.597; No.32, 5 March 1937, p.1008; No.73, 28 May 1937, p.2060; No.178, 26 November 1937, p.4716; No.82, 27 May 1938, p.2100; No.77, 19 May 1939, p.2656; No.105, 2 August 1940, p.3204; State Reports New South Wales, Sydney, Law Book Company, Vol.38 (1938); Vol.39 (1939); Vol.40 (1940); Vol.41 (1941); Vol.47 (1947); New South Wales Law Almanac, op.cit, 1961, p.49; 1965, p.55; Administration of Justice Act (Act No.11, 1940), Part III (6) (a) and (c); Michael Kirby, 'Judicial supersession: the controversial establishment of the New South Wales Court of Appeal', Sydney Law Review, Vol.30, No.2 (June 2008), p.204; http://www.law.usyd.edu.au/slr/slr30_2/Kirby.pdf (cited 19 November 2008); Who's Who in Australia, op.cit..
7. State Report New South Wales, op.cit., Vol.58 (1958), p.iii.
8. 'National Archives of Australia - Agency notes for agency CA425', http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/AgencyDetail.asp?M=3&B=CA+425 (cited 25 November 2008).
9. Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1958, p.16; 29 August 1958, p.4; R Else-Mitchell, 'Roper, Ernest David (1901-1958)', op.cit.; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; University of Sydney Calendar, op.cit., 1965, p.399, cited 22 June 2008; 'Prizes and scholarships - Law handbook - The University of Sydney', http://www.usyd.edu.au/handbooks/law/06_prizes.shtml (cited 28 May 2008).