Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

ACT Law Courts building
Established 1 January 1934 (1934-01-01)
Country Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Location Canberra
Coordinates 35°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
Decisions are appealed to High Court of Australia
Judge term length mandatory retirement by age of 70
Number of positions 4
Chief Justice of the Australian Capital Territory
Currently Helen Murrell
Since 28 October 2013 (2013-10-28)

The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is the superior court for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It has unlimited jurisdiction within the territory in civil matters (although it usually only hears matters involving more than A$250,000), and hears the most serious criminal matters. Criminal trials may be heard before a judge and jury, or by judge alone at the election of the accused. All matters are heard before a single judge, including appellate matters from the Magistrates Court, the Childrens Court, and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.[1] In the Australian court hierarchy it is one of eight state and territory Supreme Courts having unlimited jurisdiction in their respective parts of Australia. Whilst the Supreme Court is the highest ACT court in the Australian court hierarchy, an appeal by special leave can be made to the High Court of Australia.

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]


The court was established on 1 January 1934 by the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933 (Cth), since amended and now known as the Supreme Court Act 1933 (ACT).[2] The first judge of the court was Lionel Lukin. The first Chief Judge was Russell Walter Fox, appointed when the office was created in 1977. It was substituted with the office of Chief Justice in 1982 and the first Chief Justice was Richard Blackburn.[1]

Pursuant to section 37E of the Supreme Court Act 1933 (ACT), the court is known as the Court of Appeal when it exercises its appellate jurisdiction under Part 2A of the Act.[2]

The courthouse includes two jury courts and in December 2013 The Canberra Times reported that the court would soon be upgraded to meet the requirements of the city's judicial system over the next 50 years.[3]

Judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

Chief Justice

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Chief Justice Helen Murrell 28 October 2013 3 years, 48 days [4]


Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Justice Richard Refshauge 1 February 2008 8 years, 318 days [4]
Justice Hilary Penfold 1 February 2008
Justice John Burns 1 August 2011 5 years, 136 days

Additional Judges

Name Date appointed Term in office Notes
Justice Murray Wilcox 23 April 1983 33 years, 236 days
Justice Jeffrey Spender
Justice Donnell Ryan 27 April 1989 27 years, 232 days
Justice Rodney Madgwick 12 August 1996 20 years, 125 days
Justice Roger Gyles 12 February 2001 15 years, 307 days
Justice Mark Weinberg 17 February 2002 15 years, 302 days
Justice Robert French November 2003 13 years, 44 days
Justice Michael Moore
Justice Brian Tamberlin
Justice Shane Marshall
Justice Anthony North
Justice Margaret Stone
Justice James Allsop
Justice Annabelle Bennett
Justice Bruce Lander
Justice John Dowsett August 2004 12 years, 136 days

Acting Judges

Name Date appointed Notes

Master/Associate Judge

Name Date appointed Comments Notes
David Mossop 22 May 2013 Appointed as Master. The office of Master changed to Associate Judge with effect from 21 April 2015. [4]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Court Jurisdiction and History". ACT Supreme Court. ACT Government. July 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. 1 2 Supreme Court Act 1933 (ACT)
  3. "New Supreme Court for Canberra". The Canberra Times. 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 14 April 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 "Judicial Appointments". ACT Supreme Court. ACT Government. July 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2016.

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