About the ACT Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory was established on 1 January 1934 by the Seat of Government Supreme Court Act 1933 (Cth).  The Court is known as the Court of Appeal when it exercises its appellate jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Jurisdiction

The ACT Supreme Court is a superior court of record enjoying civil, criminal and appellate jurisdiction. Generally the original and appellate jurisdiction of the Court is exercisable by a single judge. Criminal trials may be heard before a judge and jury, or by judge alone at the election of the accused. In civil matters the Court has an unlimited monetary jurisdiction, although claims for less than $250,000 are usually brought in the Magistrates Court. An appeal lies to the Supreme Court from the Magistrates Court, the Childrens Court, and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) (including the ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal).

The Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction in corporations law, adoptions, probate and other matters including admiralty. The Court's admiralty jurisdiction was inherited from the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It is a jurisdiction which - according to former ACT Chief Justice Jeffrey Miles in his publication, A History of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory: The First 75 Years (Lawbook: 2009) - the Court has not yet had an opportunity to exercise even though it has power to hear matters to do with the Jervis Bay Territory, the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Heard and McDonald Islands Territory.

Composition of the Court

The Supreme Court comprises a Chief Justice, four resident judges, sixteen additional judges (each of whose primary commission is as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia), and an Associate Judge who has broad jurisdiction in personal injuries matters. In addition the Executive may appoint acting judges to assist in the work of the Court. Appointment for acting judges may only be for periods of up to 12 months.

The Court consists of three main administrative units that answer directly to a Principal Registrar. They are the Registry which is responsible for maintaining up-to-date records of the Court, processing judgments and orders, listing cases and securing court records; the Sheriff’s Office which is responsible for serving and executing the civil process of the Court, administering the jury system, court security and providing court attendants and the Russell Fox Library which is the main legal reference resource for the ACT courts.