Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Location  Sydney
Established  April 1814
Phone  +61 1300 679 272
Number of positions  53
Supreme Court of New South Wales

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: Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) Supreme Court Act 1970 (NSW) Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW)
Decisions are heard for appeals from  District Court of New South Wales
Judge term length  mandatory retirement by age of 72
Website  supremecourt.justice.nsw.gov.au
Address  Law Courts Building, 184 Phillip St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Hours  Closed today SaturdayClosedSundayClosedMonday9AM–5PMTuesday9AM–5PMWednesday9AM–5PMThursday9AM–5PMFriday9AM–5PMSuggest an edit
Decisions are appealed to  New South Wales Court of Appeal
Similar  Federal Court of Australia, The Sydney Morning, Judicial Commissi of New S, State Archives and Reco, Law and Justice Foundati

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.


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 Supreme Court building is physically located in Queen's Square, Sydney, New South Wales.


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, 3 Acting Judges of Appeal, 2 Acting Judges, and an Associate Judge. Permanent judges include the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the President of the Court of Appeal, 11 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. Associate Judges deal with pre-trial motions and non-jury trials.

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.

Current Judges

The current judges serving on the Court, and the dates of their appointment, are listed below.


  • Michael Adams (28 July 1998)
  • Robert McDougall (21 August 2003)
  • (27 April 2004)
  • Peter Johnson (1 February 2005)
  • Peter Hall (8 March 2005)
  • Megan Latham (12 April 2005)
  • Stephen Rothman (3 May 2005)
  • Paul Brereton (15 August 2005)
  • Derek Price (28 August 2006)
  • David Hammerschlag (30 January 2007)
  • Ian Harrison (12 February 2007)
  • Elizabeth Fullerton (19 February 2007)
  • Lucy McCallum (30 January 2008)
  • Nigel Rein (5 May 2008)
  • R A Hulme (2 March 2009)
  • Michael Slattery (25 May 2009)
  • David Davies (29 June 2009)
  • Monica Schmidt (27 July 2009)
  • Michael Pembroke (12 April 2010)
  • Michael Ball (13 April 2010)
  • Peter Garling (7 June 2010)
  • John Sackar (1 February 2011)
  • Ashley Black (4 July 2011)
  • Christine Adamson (17 October 2011)
  • Geoffrey Bellew (31 January 2012)
  • James Stevenson (1 February 2012)
  • Robert Beech-Jones (12 March 2012)
  • Stephen Campbell (2 May 2012)
  • Richard Button (12 June 2012)
  • Geoff Lindsay (6 August 2012)
  • Philip Hallen (12 November 2012; Associate Judge: 5 July 2010)
  • Francois Kunc (8 April 2013)
  • Stephen Robb (20 June 2013)
  • Rowan Darke (16 August 2013)
  • Robertson Wright (25 October 2013)
  • Peter Hamill (29 April 2014)
  • Helen Wilson (3 November 2014)
  • Desmond Fagan (11 June 2015)
  • Natalie Adams (5 April 2016)
  • Michael Walton (8 December 2016)
  • Acting Judges

  • R S Hulme (Supreme Court: 2 March 2009)
  • Jane Mathews (Supreme Court: 4 July 1987; Acting Judge since 2001)
  • Associate Judges

  • Joanne Harrison
  • References

    Supreme Court of New South Wales Wikipedia