Who is Who of the Judges in the Australian Supreme Court

The Australian supreme court was founded in 1903. Since then, there have been 42 justices and 13 chief justices. Three members of the court resigned and joined governor-general positions. These members are Sir William Deane, Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Ninian Stephen. Currently, the Supreme Court of Australia has seven justices serving in the Australian court. Below are their names and dates of appointments.

The current Chief Justice is Honorable Susan Kiefel and was appointed in January 2017 after serving as supreme court justice since September 2007. The role of Chief justice surpasses that of judges and administrators. The chief justice represents the judiciary and defends it, especially in issues affecting judicial independence.

The other justice in the Australian supreme court is Justice Stephen Gageler, appointed in September 2012. He was admitted into the supreme court barrister in 1989 in South Wales. He also practised as a barrister throughout Australia in commercial law, constitutional law and administrative law. He became a senior counsel in 2000 and later became supreme court justice.

Justice Patrick Keane is part of the Australian supreme court team. He served at the Court of Appeals and Queensland Supreme Court as a judge. He later became the chief justice at the Australian Federal court and was later appointed supreme court justice. Justice Michelle Gordon was also part of the team. She was appointed a judge in Australian Federal Court in April 2007, where she served until April 2007 when she was appointed as a supreme court justice.

Justice James Edelman had also served in the Federal Court from 2015 until 2017 when he joined the Australian supreme court team. However, he has been practising in various capacities since 2005. Justice Simon Harry Peter joined the supreme court in December 2020. Before joining the supreme court, he has practised law in revenue law, Tax Bar Association and Federal Court of Australia.

Lastly, Justice Jacqueline Gleeson lately joined the Australian supreme court in March 2021. She has worked as a federal court judge since 2014. However, she has been practising law since mid-1991. She was a barrister and left bar towards the end of the year 2000. She became a general counsel at the Australian Broadcasting Authority and later returned to the bar in 2007.

The Lasting Environmental Influence of Commonwealth v Tasmania

Decided in 1983, Australia’s Commonwealth vs Tasmania is one of the most significant High Court rulings in Australian history because of its implications for conservation efforts in this Southern Hemisphere nation.

 At issue was a proposed hydroelectric dam that was to be built on the Gordon River by the state government of Tasmania. Because the dam would have flooded a vast and delicate wilderness area downstream, the project was vehemently opposed by environmental groups. The Australian federal government joined the environmentalists in their suit against Tasmania.

 At the centre of the action was the Hydro-Electric Commission, an arm of the Tasmanian state government. It proposed the dam be located at a point where the Gordon River had a confluence with the Franklin River. The latter would have essentially been flooded out of existence, including destroying delicate river life. The proposal resulted in numerous protests and occupation of the downstream land by activists. Multiple arrests were made. The incident made frequent national news.

 In 1982, UNESCO upped the pressure to nix the dam project by declaring the area a World Heritage Site with the support of the Australian Labor party. The Labor Party won the national election in 1983 and created the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act, 1983. This gave the new Labor government authority to prohibit the construction of the dam.

 This prompted the famous Australia vs Tasmania case. The Tasmanian government argued that what the federal Labor Party did was unconstitutional. The claim was accepted for review by the Australian High Court in June of 1983.

 Taking on the case involved brought into play a number of constitutional issues, the most significant of which was the authority granted by the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act. The bottom line was that the state of Tasmania argued that the federal government had been overreaching and did not have the authority to regulate how local states enacted public infrastructure projects within their own borders.

 In a narrow 4-to-3 victory, the High Court ruled that the federal government had legitimately prevented the construction of the dam. It also deemed that the World Heritage Act was authorized under the federal government’s “external affairs” power. Tasmania had argued that “external affairs” should apply to foreign entities and not Australian state governments.

 The lasting significance of the case is the influential new role the Australian federal government could enjoy in protecting national wilderness areas and others issues of environmental concern.

How Law Systems Differ Around the Globe

When the law is brought up as a subject, people think that all countries are fair and equal. The types of trials, how juries are selected, and the punishments are never the same in different countries. From common law to religious law, there is a unique legal system for every country globally.

Common-Law

Common law is shaped by judicial precedents or laws that are determined by judges’ decisions. In other words, many laws are determined by cases that have already been made in court. When two or more parties disagree on a legal matter, the common law court reviews precedents to create a resolution. The most well-known example is the U.S. legal system, in which the decisions of precedent cases are given priority.

Civil Law

Civil law, which originated in Roman law, is based on natural law and substantive rules inherent in society. Civil law includes:

  • Statutory law consisting of statutes passed by legislature bodies.
  • Procedural law determines how cases are resolved through due process.

An example is the Napoleonic Code, which was the Civil Code of the French that governed people, property, and businesses. This code has influenced numerous other countries in the Middle East and Latin America.

Religious Law

Religious law comprises legal rules that are based on moral codes written in religious texts. In most developed countries, the government is controlled by secular laws. Democratic countries point to separate church and state or keep religious matters out of legal and political systems. In addition, there exists Christian canon law that governs Christian churches and organizations.

Mixed Law

Mixed law includes two or more legal systems combined into one. A hybrid legal system tends to combine historical legal traditions with modern practices that are more up-to-date with a changing society. An example is a country that combines civil law and common law systems.

Knowing how law systems differ around the globe is essential to travellers. They should learn some facts about the laws before they engage in severe matters in unknown countries. Studying global law helps people to appreciate their legal systems and understand how much people’s attitudes and decisions differ.

Understanding Australian Court Cases and Judicial System

The judicial system of Australia is rooted in and derived from English Common Law as it developed in Great Britain over the past centuries. Australia was colonized by the British. That nation brought its legal system with it to this new southern hemisphere nation.

Australian court cases are handled at several levels. Let’s start with those at the lower end of a multi-tiered legal system.

Local and Magistrate Courts

These courts handle minor legal matters and are presided over by a magistrate (as opposed to a judge). The role of the latter varies somewhat from state to state.

Australia is made up of six states. For example, 90% of criminal matters in New South Wales are dealt with by a Local Court. By comparison, in the Australian Capital Territory, a Magistrates Court will handle criminal cases but only to determine if the case should be sent to a higher court.

District and County Court

These are the next level up from Local and Magistrate Courts. This is where cases are heard by a judge rather than a magistrate. District and County Courts also preside over appeals from the lower courts. Finally, District and County Court is where jury trials are held in criminal matters but not major crimes like murder.

Supreme Court

In the U.S., the Supreme Court is the highest in the nation. In Australia, the Supreme Court is the highest court within each state. Here is where the more serious criminal matters are tried with a jury.

The Supreme Court system hears appeals from lower courts. Such appeals can be questions of fact, such as when a judge or magistrate is said to have made an error. They also deal in questions of law. In the latter incidence, an appellant contends that a judge or magistrate erred when applying the law.


Federal Court

Federal Courts preside over criminal matters that result from federal legislation. This legislation applies to all states and territories.


High Court

The High Court in Australia is equivalent to the Supreme Court in the U.S. It’s the highest court in the land. It handles appeals from lower courts and decides landmark cases of primary social, legal, and cultural significance in Australia.