Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

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Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory
Coat of Arms of the Australian Capital Territory.svg
Law Courts of the Australian Capital Territory.jpg
Original ACT Law Courts building
Established1 January 1934 (1934-01-01)
LocationLondon Circuit at Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Coordinates35°16′52″S 149°07′38″E / 35.281015°S 149.127245°E / -35.281015; 149.127245Coordinates: 35°16′52″S 149°07′38″E / 35.281015°S 149.127245°E / -35.281015; 149.127245
Composition methodExecutive appointment following advice of the Attorney-General
Authorized byParliament of Australia via the: Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly via the:
Appeals toHigh Court of Australia
Appeals fromMagistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement at 70 years of age
Number of positions5
Websitewww.courts.act.gov.au/supreme/
Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory
CurrentlyHelen Murrell
Since28 October 2013 (2013-10-28)

The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is the highest court of the Australian Capital Territory. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the territory in civil matters and hears the most serious criminal matters.

The Court has the jurisdictional power to hear matters that relate to the Jervis Bay Territory, the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Heard and McDonald Islands Territory, although it has never exercised that power.[1] It also hears matters on appeal from the Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory.

Whilst the Supreme Court is the highest Australian Capital Territory court in the Australian court hierarchy, an appeal by special leave can be made to the High Court of Australia. Matters of appeal can also be submitted to the ACT Court of Appeal, which is constituted by members of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court consists of 5 permanent judges, including the Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory, presently Helen Murrell, 1 associate judge, 11 additional judges and 4 acting judges. The court has three main administrative units: Registry, Sheriff's Office and the Russell Fox Library.[2]

The court is located on Knowles Place near London Circuit at Civic, in Canberra, in the new ACT Law Courts building that it shares with the Magistrates Court.

History[edit]

When the Federal Capital Territory was created in 1911, all existing laws applicable in New South Wales applied equally to the new Territory.[2] The Commonwealth soon began the implementation of a series of ordinances for the Territory's governance.[2]

In the early years, Territory justice was enacted through the provisions of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act of 1909.[2] Territory officials relied on the Queanbeyan, Goulburn and Cooma courts.[2] On 12 December 1925, the Federal Capital Commission wrote to the Department of Home Affairs and Territories about developing a system for the administration of justice in the Territory.[2] It would be another five years, however, before any decisive action was taken, with the establishment of a Court of Petty Sessions in 1930.[2]

In November 1932, Cabinet considered a report dealing with contemporary arrangements involving Territory courts.[2] The report noted the High Court and Court of Petty Sessions, and that there had been a recent trial use of a visiting judge to hear criminal and civil matters.[2] What was needed, the report said, was for the Territory to have its own Supreme Court.[2] This would relieve the High Court of its jurisdiction in respect of the Territory and provide an intermediate court of appeal between the High Court and Court of Petty Sessions. Cabinet approved the recommendation on 7 December 1932.[2]

The Supreme Court of the Federal Capital Territory was established on 1 January 1934 by the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933 (Cth).[2]

The first judge of the Supreme Court was Lionel Lukin, who served from 1934 to 1943, and the court's first sitting was on 12 February 1934 at Acton House (the building was demolished in 1940).[2] The court moved to the Hotel Acton in early 1935, then to the new Patent Office in Barton in 1941, and then to the Law Courts Building on the western side of City Hill, on 8 May 1963.[2]

Following the establishment of self-government in 1989, the court remained under Commonwealth administration until its transfer to the ACT Government on 1 July 1992, when the ACT Supreme Court (Transfer) Act 1992 (Cth) came into effect.[2]

By 2006, the Supreme Court comprised a Chief Justice, three resident judges and (since 1958) additional judges otherwise appointed to the Federal Court of Australia as well as a Master of the Court.[2]

In 2015, the title of the office of Master of the Supreme Court was changed to Associate Judge.[3]

It was announced in 2017 that the ACT Law Courts building would be expanded as the Supreme Court was experience capacity issues.[4] In 2019, stage one of the renovations were completed.[5] Not only did the renovations bring the Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court into the same building, it added several new courtrooms and modernised facilities.[5] Stage two and the renovations of the original ACT Law Courts building is due to be completed in coming years.

Jurisdiction[edit]

In addition to possessing jurisdictional power with respect to matters in the Australian Capital Territory, the Court also has the jurisdictional power to hear matters that relate to the Jervis Bay Territory, the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Heard and McDonald Islands Territory, although it has never exercised that power.[1] It also hears matters on appeal from the Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory.

It is the Territory's superior court with civil, criminal and appellate jurisdiction.[2] It also covers matters relating to corporation law, adoptions and probate.[2] The court also conducted divorce proceedings, but only until 1975, when the Family Court of Australia assumed responsibility for this function.[2]

Composition[edit]

The court can be constituted by a single judge alone or with a jury.[6] An appeal from the associate judge or from a single judge is heard by the court sitting as the ACT Court of Appeal constituted by three judges.[6] An appeal from the Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory is heard by a single judge.[6]

Permanent judges are appointed by the executive. Additional judges are judges of other superior Australian courts (usually the Federal Court of Australia) that have been appointed as an additional judge of the Supreme Court.[6][7] Acting judges are judges who have a short term appointment of up to 12 months by the executive.[6]

The executive must also appoint a Chief Justice.[8] The Chief Justice is responsible for the prompt discharge of the court’s business, and may in consultation with a judge, decide the types of cases which a magistrate will hear.[8]

Membership[edit]

Chief Justice[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Chief Justice Helen Murrell 28 October 2013 (2013-10-28) 5 years, 200 days [9]

Judges[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Justice John Burns 1 August 2011 (2011-08-01) 7 years, 288 days [9]
Justice Michael Elkaim 4 July 2016 (2016-07-04) 2 years, 316 days
Justice David Mossop 13 February 2017 (2017-02-13) 2 years, 92 days
Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson 6 February 2018 (2018-02-06) 1 year, 99 days

Associate Judge[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Associate Justice Verity McWilliam 26 June 2017 1 year, 324 days [9]

Additional Judges[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Steven Rares March 2007 11–12 years [7]
Anthony Besanko March 2007 11–12 years
Lindsay Foster 11 November 2009 9 years, 186 days
Jayne Jagot 11 November 2009 9 years, 186 days
Anna Katzmann 17 September 2010 8 years, 241 days
John Gilmour 6 July 2012 6 years, 314 days
Michael Wigney 9 December 2013 5 years, 158 days
Melissa Perry 14 May 2014 5 years, 2 days
Berna Collier 3 May 2016 3 years, 13 days
Robert Bromwich 5 September 2016 2 years, 253 days
Natalie Charlesworth 14 November 2017 1 year, 183 days

Acting Judges[edit]

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Linda Ashford 1 July 2014 4 years, 319 days [10]
Stephen Walmsley 1 July 2014 4 years, 319 days
David Robinson 1 July 2014 4 years, 319 days
Murray Kellam 8 March 2017 2 years, 69 days

Process[edit]

Civil matters may be commenced by the filing of an originating application or originating process.

Criminal matters are commenced when they persons are committed to trial or sentence by the Magistrates Court of the Australian Capital Territory.

Appeals to the court may come from several sources including the Magistrates Court and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Court Jurisdiction and History". ACT Supreme Court. ACT Government. July 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Government Records about the Australian Capital Territory: Courts and tribunals". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 26 February 2019. CC-BY-SA icon.svg This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia license.
  3. ^ "Change from Master to Associate Judge". courts.act.gov.au. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  4. ^ Gorrey, Megan (26 July 2017). "ACT law courts $160 million revamp will 'improve access to justice'". Canberra Times. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b Ryan, Emma (18 March 2019). "Stage 1 redevelopment of ACT Law Courts complete". www.lawyersweekly.com.au. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e "About the Court". courts.act.gov.au. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Additional Judges". courts.act.gov.au. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Supreme Court Act 1933" (PDF). www.legislation.act.gov.au. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b c "Current Judges and Associate Judge". Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. 13 February 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Acting Judges". courts.act.gov.au. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2019.