Wee Chong Jin: An ‘Immortal’ of Singapore Law

Attending a book launch was a nice diversion from the routine and humdrum of everyday work. It was held at the old Supreme Court Building, in the former Court of Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin on 28 September.

Mrs Wee Chong Jin & the Guest of Honour, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong

The First Chief: Wee Chong Jin—A Judicial Portrait is written by John Koh, a lawyer in Legal Service during the time of Wee Chong Jin’s tenure as Chief Justice. It was commissioned by the Singapore Academy of Law’s Legal Heritage Committee and published by its publishing arm.

The book attempts to analyse the important decisions of the first Asian chief justice of Singapore, who was appointed a judge in 1957 and Chief Justice in 1963. He retired in 1990, after 33 years on the bench. The First Chief is divided into 8 chapters, starting with the early years. Chapter 1 is entitled Penang, Cambridge and Singapore, while subsequent chapters trace the period when Wee Chong Jin worked as a lawyer in Singapore. The bulk of the book records his judgments during the many years of his stewardship on the bench. As the author acknowledges, the work is not a scholarly biography but rather a study of the judicial work of the man.

Discussions of the leading cases of the day and their legal arguments might be heavy reading for a non-legally trained person, but much of it remains interesting reading. The book is well researched and well written, giving a very clear landscape of the major judicial proceedings of Singapore over a 30-year period.

Carolyn Wee
C J Koh Law Library

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