Carolyn Simpson

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Hon. Justice
Carolyn Chalmers Simpson
Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW
Assumed office
Personal details
Born (1946-03-30) 30 March 1946 (age 71)
Forbes, New South Wales New South Wales
Nationality Australian Australia
Residence Sydney, New South Wales
Alma mater Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney
Bathurst Teachers College
University of Sydney

Carolyn Chalmers Simpson (born 30 March 1946) is a judge of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.[1] Justice Simpson made legal history in 1999 as one of three women judges who formed the first all-female bench to sit in an Australian court.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Simpson was born 30 March 1946, at Forbes in the Central West of New South Wales, to William George and Janet Bower Chalmers.[1]

She received her education as a boarder at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney at Croydon,[3] and following matriculation attended Bathurst Teachers College[1] (an antecedent to Charles Sturt University), graduating with a Diploma of Education in 1965.[2] After five years of teaching, a friend suggested she study law.[2] She graduated from the University of Sydney in 1971.[4]


Simpson served as an associate to a District Court judge. It was here that she realised her passion for law, stating: "I got hooked."[2]

She was a member of the University of Sydney Law Extension Committee from 1972-76, an Officer of the Department of Youth and Community Services from 1974–76, President of the Society of Labor Lawyers, and President of the Council for Civil Liberties from 1976 to 1979.[1] She was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1976 and appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1989. In 1994, she was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.[2]

Justice Simpson made headlines in April 1999, when she and Justices Margaret Beazley and Virginia Bell sat in the Court of Criminal Appeal in Sydney.[2] 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.[4] Subsequently, Simpson observed that, as more women were appointed judges in the Supreme Court, there would be more benches of three. "Given the opportunity, women achieve and do as well as men", she said.[2]

Simpson sat in the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court of NSW until her elevation to the Court of Appeal in June 2015.[5]

Notable decisions[edit]

Justice Simpson has presided over a number of high-profile cases. She was the judge responsible for sentencing Neddy Smith, a notorious gangland murderer, to life imprisonment in 1989.[4]

In 2005, she presided over the much publicised case Network Ten v Jessica Rowe. Ten claimed that the 5pm Ten News reader had breached her "open-ended" contract by failing to give six months' notice in writing. Simpson dismissed the action and ordered Ten to pay Rowe's court costs, finding that the contract was for a closed period of two years and expired at the conclusion of the case.[6]

She set a precedent in 2007 when she awarded around A$1 million to a teenager who was bullied at primary school. She concluded that the school had "grossly failed" in its duty of care to Benjamin Cox, who now suffers from a severe psychiatric condition.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Suzannah Pearce, ed. (2007). "SIMPSON Carolyn Chalmers, Hon. Justice". Who's Who in Australia Live!. North Melbourne, Vic: Crown Content Pty Ltd. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Graham, Sally (26 May 2000). "Setting the Benchmark". Alumni news. Charles Sturt University. Archived from the original on 19 July 2005. Retrieved 30 September 2007. 
  3. ^ McFarlane, John (1988). "Ex-Students". The Golden Hope: Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney 1888-1988. Croydon, NSW: P.L.C Council, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney. p. 243. ISBN 0-9597340-1-5. 
  4. ^ a b c "Media Watch" (PDF). Gazette. Sydney, NSW: The University of Sydney. 1999. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2007. .
  5. ^ Upton MP, Gabrielle (3 June 2015). "New Judges Appointed" (PDF). Justice NSW. Justice NSW. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Casella, Nicolette (31 December 2005). "Rowe on cloud Nine". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 September 2007. [dead link]
  7. ^ AAP (22 May 2007). "Govt considers appeal on bullied boy". The Age. Retrieved 30 September 2007. 

External links[edit]