Mabo judge John Toohey's life celebrated

AAP

The former High Court judge who presided over the landmark Mabo decision has been remembered as one of Australia's most eminent jurists.

John Toohey died on Thursday, aged 85.

Law Society of Western Australia president Matthew Keogh said Mr Toohey was one of Australia's most eminent jurists and contributors to the law and justice.

Mr Keogh said Mr Toohey was a well-respected solicitor and president of the Law Society before his appointment to the Federal Court and then the High Court.

"There are few people who have given more to the practice of law and service to justice," Mr Keogh said.

"He was involved in significant legal cases affecting significant political and social justice reforms in Aboriginal law, criminal law, contract law, restitution and property law, including sitting as a judge in the High Court for the landmark Mabo decision."

The 1992 Mabo judgement was a watershed land rights ruling, finding the Meriam people were entitled to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the lands in the Murray Islands in the eastern section of the Torres Strait.

Mr Toohey was also the inaugural lawyer at the Port Hedland office of the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA, president of the WA Bar Association, inaugural Aboriginal Land Commissioner for the Northern Territory, presidential member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, a judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and an independent member of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.