Supreme Court of New South Wales
The Supreme Court of New South Wales is the highest state court of the Australian State of New South Wales. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the state in civil matters, and hears the most serious criminal matters. Whilst the Supreme Court is the highest New South Wales court in the Australian court hierarchy, an appeal by special leave can be made to the High Court of Australia.
|Supreme Court of New South Wales|
The Supreme Court building in Queen's Square, Sydney
|Composition method||Vice-regal appointment upon Premier's nomination, following advice of the Attorney General and Cabinet|
|Authorized by||Parliament of New South Wales via the:|
|Appeals from||District Court of New South Wales|
Local Court of New South Wales
|Judge term length||Mandatory retirement by age of 72|
|Number of positions||52|
|Chief Justice of New South Wales|
|Currently||Justice Tom Bathurst|
|Since||1 June 2011|
|Chief Judge at Common law|
|Since||22 February 2013|
|Chief Judge in Equity|
|Since||15 March 2017|
Matters of appeal can be submitted to the New South Wales Court of Appeal and Court of Criminal Appeal, both of which are constituted by members of the Supreme Court, in the case of the Court of Appeal from those who have been commissioned as judges of appeal.
The Supreme Court consists of 52 permanent judges, including the Chief Justice of New South Wales, presently Tom Bathurst, the President of the Court of Appeal, 11 Judges of Appeal, the Chief Judge at Common Law, and the Chief Judge in Equity.
The first superior court of the Colony of New South Wales (known as the Supreme Court of Civil Judicature) was established by letters patent dated 2 April 1814, known as the Second Charter of Justice of New South Wales. That charter provided that there should be a Supreme Court constituted by a Judge appointed by the King's commission and two Magistrates. The charter also created the Governor's Court and the Lieutenant-Governor's Court. The jurisdiction of the Governor's Court and the Supreme Court extended to Van Diemen's Land (the former name for Tasmania). All three courts were concerned with civil matters only.
Legislation to establish a new supreme court for both New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land was prepared in London by James Stephen, counsel to the Colonial Office, and Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Chief Justice-designate of New South Wales. The act was called an "Act to provide for the better administration of justice in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land and for the more effectual government thereof" and is commonly numbered as "4 Geo. IV, c. 96". The statute was passed on 19 July 1823.
In consequence of this legislation, letters patent establishing the New South Wales Supreme Court were sealed on 13 October 1823, and proclaimed in Sydney on 17 May 1824. They are known as the Third Charter of Justice of New South Wales.
This charter provided that there should be a Chief Justice for the colony of New South Wales in the Island of New Holland (as the continent of Australia was then known), as well as other judges, a registrar, a prothonotary, a master, and a Keeper of Records and such other Officers as may be necessary for the administration of Justice in the colony.
The charter also established the office of sheriff; gave precedence to the Chief Justice over all other subjects except the Governor (or acting Governor) of the colony; and allowed the Court to admit persons to be barristers, attorneys, proctors or solicitors as the case may be. Previously, a person had to be admitted as such in the United Kingdom. However, ex-convicts were not permitted to be admitted.
In 1840, a Port Phillip division of the Court was created, consisting of a single Resident Judge, to exercise the court's jurisdiction in the Port Phillip District of the Colony of New South Wales. The division existed until 1852, when it was replaced by the Supreme Court of Victoria following the creation of the Colony of Victoria.
Also in 1840, the Parliament of New South Wales established a separate equity division in the court. Limited jurisdiction in divorce cases was granted in 1873 and full Admiralty jurisdiction was added in 1911. The Supreme Court, in 1972, was one of the last Common Law jurisdictions in the world to fuse the administration of Equity and Common Law, although these continue as the historic names for the two divisions of the court. This process began in the United Kingdom with the passage of the Judicature Acts in 1873. Since 1930, three generations of the Street family have served New South Wales as Chief Justice.
Supreme Court Judges Carolyn Simpson, Margaret Beazley and Virginia Bell made headlines in April 1999 when the three sat in the Court of Criminal Appeal in Sydney. The Judges threw out an appeal from a convicted computer hacker who had, out of "sheer maliciousness", been posting offensive messages on Ausnet's homepage. According to the Women Lawyers Association of NSW, there had never been an all-female bench in England or New Zealand at the time.
Structure and jurisdiction
The court now operates under the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW), the Supreme Court Act 1970 (NSW), and the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW), although provisions on the appointment and removal of judicial officers were incorporated into the state's Constitution in 1992.
The court consists of 52 permanent judges, three Acting Judges of Appeal, two Acting Judges, and an Associate Judge. Permanent judges include the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the President of the Court of Appeal, eleven Judges of Appeal (one of whom is currently the Chief Judge at Common Law), the Chief Judge at Common Law and the Chief Judge in Equity, and 38 Puisne Judges.
The Chief Judge in each trial division also sits in the Court of Appeal from time to time. Occasionally, puisne judges also sit in the Court of Appeal, though this is uncommon.
The court hears very serious cases such as murder and treason, civil cases involving more than $750 000, and civil matters such as wills, injunctions, and admiralty. The court's work at first instance is divided between the Common Law Division, which hears civil, criminal and administrative law matters, and the Equity Division, which hears equity, probate, commercial, admiralty, and protective matters. The court includes the Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal which hear appeals from the District Court and the Local Court and from single judges sitting in the Common Law or Equity Divisions. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals from the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales and a number of administrative tribunals.
The Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal are respectively the highest civil and criminal courts in the state. To appeal to the High Court of Australia from the Court of Appeal or the Court of Criminal Appeal, special leave must be granted by the High Court.
Appeals from state supreme courts to the High Court are not limited to matters in which a federal question arises and the Constitution empowers the Federal Parliament to make laws vesting state courts with federal jurisdiction. The High Court of Australia can review decisions of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in relation to the common law and equitable jurisdictions of the court as well. The High Court of Australia has exercised this power on a number of occasions.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales was proclaimed in Sydney on 17 May 1824.
The inaugural Supreme Court building that is located on the corner of King Street and Elizabeth Street in the Sydney central business district, adjacent to what is now known as Queen's Square, was built between 1820 and 1828. The two-storey rectangular Georgian building, with an additional loggia and cornice added in 1868, was designed by Francis Greenway in 1819 under the direction of Governor Macquarie. This building is now called the Greenway Wing. Greenway was dismissed before the building was completed and its design was so modified by his successor, Standish Lawrence Harris, that the building barely resembles his original design. The building was occupied by the Supreme Court from 1827. In the 1860s James Barnet designed additions for the building including an arcaded loggia along the King Street façade and the new classical cornice and parapet for the roof, giving the structure a Victorian Italianate appearance. The building was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.
Old Registry Wing
The second structure to house the Court is located immediately the southwest of the Greenway Wing on the corner of Elizabeth Street and St James Road. Designed by Government Architect Alexander Dawson, it is one of only two Government buildings which were designed in the Victorian Free Gothic style, the other being the nearby Land Titles Office. Built between 1859 and 1862 and listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999, the site is now known as the Old Registry Building. Barnet extended the Old Registry building in 1875 and 1886.
Banco Road Court
Designed by Walter Liberty Vernon and built between 1895 and 1896 in the Federation Free Classical style, the two-storey rich red brick Banco Road Court building was the third location of the Supreme Court. The Banco Wing is located to the east of the Old Registry building on St James Road and south of the Greenway Wing and makes little reference to the earlier buildings in either style or detailing. The interior of the courtroom has aesthetic significance and is said to be modelled on St Stephen's Court in Dublin. Despite its naming, the Court is located in St James' Road, opposite the north-western edge of Hyde Park. There is no Banco Road.
Law Courts building
In 1976 the New South Wales Government completed construction of the Sydney Law Courts building, facing Queen's Square and bounded by Phillip Street and Macquarie Street. The 27-storey 33,000-square-metre (360,000 sq ft) building is owned by Law Courts Limited, a company whose shareholders comprise the Government of Australia and the Government of New South Wales. The building houses the High Court of Australia (when it sits in Sydney), the Federal Court of Australia and the NSW Supreme Court. The building was designed by architects McConnel Smith and Johnson and received an RAIA Merit Award in 1977 and stands as a strong, singular statement representative of its time and a product of the brutalist school of architecture. Refurbished in 2009 at a cost of A$214 million, a range of sustainability measures were implemented to extend the life and amenity of the building.
|Term in office||Comments||Notes|
|Tom Bathurst||Chief Justice||1 June 2011||8 years, 197 days|
|Margaret Beazley||President of the Court of Appeal||1 March 2013||28 February 2019||5 years, 364 days|
|Judge of Appeal||29 April 1996||22 years, 305 days|
|Andrew Bell||President of the Court of Appeal||28 February 2019|
|John Basten||Judge of Appeal||2 May 2005||14 years, 227 days|
|Robert Macfarlan||Judge of Appeal||8 September 2008||11 years, 98 days|
|Anthony Meagher||Judge of Appeal||10 August 2011||8 years, 127 days|
|Clifton Hoeben||Chief Judge at Common law||22 February 2013||6 years, 296 days|
|Judge||16 August 2004||15 years, 121 days|
|Julie Ward||Chief Judge in Equity||15 March 2017||2 years, 275 days|
|Judge of Appeal||12 November 2012||7 years, 33 days|
|Judge||29 September 2008||11 years, 77 days|
|Fabian Gleeson||Judge of Appeal||29 April 2013||6 years, 230 days|
|Mark Leeming||Judge of Appeal||3 June 2013||6 years, 195 days|
|Anthony Payne||Judge of Appeal||30 March 2016||3 years, 260 days|
|Richard White||Judge of Appeal||15 March 2017||2 years, 275 days|
|Judge||27 April 2004||15 years, 232 days|
|Paul Brereton||Judge of Appeal||23 August 2018||1 year, 114 days|
|Judge||15 August 2005||14 years, 122 days|
|Lucy McCallum||Judge of Appeal||30 January 2019||319 days|
|Judge||30 January 2008||11 years, 319 days|
|Reginald Barrett||Acting Judge of Appeal||16 March 2016||3 years, 274 days||Retired at age 71, later appointed as an Acting Judge of Appeal|
|Judge of Appeal||25 January 2012||20 April 2015||3 years, 85 days|
|Judge||19 March 2001||14 years, 32 days|
|Arthur Emmett||Acting Judge of Appeal||30 September 2015||4 years, 76 days||Judge of the Federal Court (3 Feb 1997 - 6 Mar 2013)|
|Judge of Appeal||7 March 2013||30 September 2015||2 years, 207 days|
|Ronald Sackville||Acting Judge of Appeal||1 September 2008||11 years, 105 days||Judge of the Federal Court (19 Sep 1994 - 25 Aug 2008)|
|Carolyn Simpson||Acting Judge of Appeal||30 March 2018||1 year, 260 days|
|Judge of Appeal||11 June 2015||29 March 2018||2 years, 291 days|
|Judge||22 December 1993||24 years, 97 days|
|Michael Walton||Judge||8 December 2016||20 years, 362 days||Former Vice President & President of the Industrial Court of NSW|
(December 1998 - December 2016)
|Peter Johnson||1 February 2005||14 years, 317 days|
|Stephen Rothman||3 May 2005||14 years, 226 days|
|Derek Price||28 August 2006||13 years, 109 days|
|David Hammerschlag||30 January 2007||12 years, 319 days|
|Ian Harrison||12 February 2007||12 years, 306 days|
|Elizabeth Fullerton||19 February 2007||12 years, 299 days|
|Nigel Rein||5 May 2008||11 years, 224 days||Judge of the District Court (2002 - 4 May 2008)|
|Robert Hulme||2 March 2009||10 years, 288 days|
|Michael Slattery||25 May 2009||10 years, 204 days||Judge Advocate General (Australia)|
|David Davies||29 June 2009||10 years, 169 days|
|Monika Schmidt||27 July 2009||10 years, 141 days||Judge of the Industrial Court of NSW (1993-2009)|
|Michael Pembroke||12 April 2010||9 years, 247 days|
|Michael Ball||13 April 2010||9 years, 246 days|
|Peter Garling||7 June 2010||9 years, 191 days|
|John Sackar||1 February 2011||8 years, 317 days|
|Ashley Black||4 July 2011||8 years, 164 days|
|Christine Adamson||17 October 2011||8 years, 59 days|
|Geoffrey Bellew||31 January 2012||7 years, 318 days|
|James Stevenson||1 February 2012||7 years, 317 days|
|Robert Beech-Jones||12 March 2012||7 years, 278 days|
|Stephen Campbell||2 May 2012||7 years, 227 days|
|Richard Button||12 June 2012||7 years, 186 days|
|Geoff Lindsay||6 August 2012||7 years, 131 days|
|Philip Hallen||Judge||12 November 2012||7 years, 33 days|
|Associate Judge||5 July 2010||11 November 2012||2 years, 129 days|
|Francois Kunc||Judge||8 April 2013||6 years, 251 days|
|Stephen Robb||20 June 2013||6 years, 178 days|
|Rowan Darke||16 August 2013||6 years, 121 days|
|Robertson Wright||25 October 2013||6 years, 51 days|
|Peter Hamill||29 April 2014||5 years, 230 days|
|Helen Wilson||3 November 2014||5 years, 42 days|
|Des Fagan||11 June 2015||4 years, 187 days|
|Natalie Adams||5 April 2016||3 years, 254 days|
|Julia Lonergan||21 March 2017||2 years, 269 days|
|Guy Parker||6 April 2017||2 years, 253 days|
|Kelly Rees||5 September 2018||1 year, 101 days|
|Lea Armstrong||31 October 2018||1 year, 45 days||Formerly the NSW Crown Solicitor, Appointed as President of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal|
|Trish Henry||30 January 2019||319 days|
|Mark Ierace||31 January 2019||318 days|
|Peter Hidden||Acting Judge||March 2016||3 years, 289 days|
|Judge||16 October 1995||February 2016||24 years, 60 days|
|Joanne Harrison||Associate Judge||1997||21–22 years|
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Media related to Supreme Court of New South Wales at Wikimedia Commons
- "First Charter of Justice" (PDF). Transcribed from Historical Records of Australia. 2 April 1787.
- Constitution Act 1902 (NSW), Part 9 The judiciary
- Supreme Court Act 1970 (NSW)
- Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW)
- "Supreme Court - Our History". Lawlink NSW. Retrieved 28 May 2005.
- Chief Justices of New South Wales - Law and History 2: LawlinkNSW
- Brief Overview of the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New South Wales