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James Spigelman

James Spigelman
Spigelman in 2012
16th Chief Justice of New South Wales
In office
25 May 1998 – 31 May 2011
Nominated byBob Carr
Preceded byMurray Gleeson
Succeeded byTom Bathurst
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
In office
18 June 1998 – 1 February 2012
GovernorGordon Samuels
Marie Bashir
Preceded byMurray Gleeson
Succeeded byTom Bathurst
Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
In office
1 April 2012 – 31 March 2017
Preceded byMaurice Newman
Succeeded byJustin Milne
Secretary of the Department of the Media
In office
30 June 1975 – 22 December 1975
Personal details
Born (1946-01-01) 1 January 1946 (age 78)
Sosnowiec, Poland
SpouseAlice Spigelman

James Jacob Spigelman AC KC (born 1 January 1946) is a former Australian judge who served as Chief Justice of New South Wales from 1998 to 2011. He was also Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales from 1998 to 2012.[1] He served on the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong as a non-permanent judge from other common law jurisdictions from April 2013 to his early resignation in September 2020.[2] Spigelman also served as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 2012 to 2017.

Early years and education

Spigelman was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, on 1 January 1946. He arrived in Australia with his family in 1949[3][4] and attended Maroubra Public School and later Sydney Boys High School. He then went on to study Arts at the University of Sydney, where he attained First-Class Honours in Government and Second-Class Honours (Division 1) in Economics. Subsequently, he studied law, graduating in 1971 with First-Class Honours and the University Medal.[4]

Spigelman participated in and helped organise the 1965 Freedom Ride, a project undertaken by students to draw attention to problems faced by Indigenous communities in NSW. In 1969 he was President of the Students' Representative Council. From 1969-1971, he was the Student Fellow of the University Senate.[4]


Early legal career

Spigelman was admitted to practise as a solicitor in 1972. From 1972 to 1975, he served as Senior Advisor and Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. In 1975, he was appointed the Secretary of the Department of the Media.[4][5][6]

In 1976 Spigelman was admitted to the NSW Bar. He did not commence practice until three years later, when he first served for several years as a member of the Australian Law Reform Commission and also spent time overseas. Spigelman's primary areas of practice at the bar included constitutional law, administrative law, and appellate work.

In 1986, Spigelman was appointed Queen's Counsel; and, in 1997, he served as Solicitor-General of New South Wales.[3][4]

Judicial career

Spigelman in 2006

The Premier Bob Carr appointed Spigelman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and Lieutenant-Governor of NSW, effective 25 May 1998.[3][4][6][7]

Spigelman was regarded as the favourite to succeed Murray Gleeson as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia when he stepped down in late 2008.[8] However, this appointment went instead to Robert French.

On 18 March 2011, Spigelman announced his decision to resign as Chief Justice, effective 31 May 2011.[6][9] Reviewing Spigelman's 13-year term of office, Sydney Morning Herald columnist, David Marr commented that "... the Chief Justice of NSW .... blazed an incomparable trail.... every stage of Jim Spigelman's remarkable career has been like that: briefly surprising and then absolutely convincing".[10] Marr claims that Spigelman's achievements include the renewal of the ranks of the Supreme Court, running a polite and friendly Court, and modernising the Court's business practices and rules. According to Bret Walker SC, Spigelman was renowned for "... showing his decided preference for efficient, better-value-for-money justice."[10]

He retired on 31 May 2011 and was succeeded by Tom Bathurst QC. Spigelman has also been a justice of the Supreme Court of Fiji.

He was also appointed to the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong as non-permanent judge from other common law jurisdictions in April 2013 and reappointed to a term that was not due to expire until 2022; however, after the Hong Kong chief executive denied the practice of the separation of powers in Hong Kong in September 2020, he became the first foreign judge to resign from the court, citing concerns over the national security legislation recently imposed by the Chinese government on the territory.[11][12]

Chairman of the ABC

On 8 March 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Spigelman would become chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), starting a 5-year term on 1 April 2012.[13] His term finished in March 2017[14] and he was replaced by Justin Milne in April 2017.[15]

Personal life

Spigelman's parents, Gustawa and Majloch, are Holocaust survivors who feature in the graphic novel Maus, by Spigelman's cousin Art Spiegelman. They were 2 of 15 survivors among 72 Spigelman relatives. Spigelman's surname was originally spelt Szpigelman until his parents altered it to Spigelman after moving to Australia after the Holocaust ended.

Spigelman and his two brothers, Mark Spigelman and Allan Spigelman, have often been recognised for their achievements following the Holocaust.[16]

Spigelman is married to author and clinical psychologist Alice Spigelman AM. She has a BA and MA in Psychology. Her directorships have included The Benevolent Society, UNHCR, Bundanon Trust, NIDA, Australian Institute of Music and the Rural Leadership Program. She is currently the Chair of Sculpture by the Sea having been a board member since 2010.

Community leadership

Spigelman has a strong interest in the arts. His community involvement includes:[4]


  • Justice Spigelman became a Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2000, for services to law and to the community through leadership in bringing about change in attitudes to the administration of justice for a more fair and equitable society, and to the support of the visual arts.[17]
  • In 2001, Justice Spigelman was one of over 15,000 Australians to be awarded a Centenary Medal.[18]
  • He has received honorary doctorates from two universities in Sydney: University of Sydney, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2004;[4] and Macquarie University, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), 2012.[19]


  1. ^ "Swearing in Ceremony of The Honourable J J Spigelman QC" (PDF). 25 May 1998.
  2. ^ Top court gets new permanent judge, South China Morning Post
  3. ^ a b c "The Honourable James Jacob Spigelman, AC". Chief Justices of New South Wales. Supreme Court of NSW . 19 May 1998. Archived from the original on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Hon Justice James Jacob Spigelman AC". Honorary Doctor of Laws Conferral Citation. The University of Sydney. 28 May 2004. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  5. ^ Whitlam, Gough (16 June 1975). "Appointments" (Press release). Archived from the original on 11 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Pelly, Michael (18 March 2011). "Spigelman quits as NSW Chief Justice, seven years before mandatory retirement age". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Government Gazette Appointments and Employment". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales. No. 96. New South Wales, Australia. 19 June 1998. p. 4415. Retrieved 3 March 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ Koutsoukis, Jason (9 March 2008). "Spigelman odds-on for High Court". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  9. ^ Jacobsen, Geesche (19 March 2011). "Chief Justice announces he will retire". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  10. ^ a b Marr, David; Jacobsen, Geesche; Snow, Deborah; Gibson, Joel (19 March 2011). "A time to refresh for a defining force". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  11. ^ Australian James Spigelman resigns as judge of Hong Kong appeals court over new national security law, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 18 September 2020
  12. ^ Australian judge James Spigelman says he resigned over HK's national security law, The Standard, 18 September 2020
  13. ^ "Spigelman confirmed as new ABC chairman". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  14. ^ "ABC farewells Chairman James Spigelman" (Press release). ABC Media Centre. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Justin Milne B.A., F.A.I.C.D". ABC. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  16. ^ "His brother is one of our most celebrated judges, but Mark Spigelman has an even more extraordinary tale. He survived the Nazis by dressing as a girl". 22 May 2009.
  17. ^ "SPIGELMAN, James Jacob - Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 12 June 2000. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  18. ^ "SPIGELMAN, James Jacob - Centenary Meda". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  19. ^ "Honorary Doctorate awarded to His Honour James J Spigelman AC QC". Macquarie University. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
Legal offices Preceded byMurray Gleeson Chief Justice of New South Wales 1998–2011 Succeeded byTom Bathurst Government offices Preceded byJames Oswin Secretary of the Department of the Media 1975 Department abolished Preceded byMurray Gleeson Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales 1998–2012 Succeeded byTom Bathurst Media offices Preceded byMaurice Newman Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2012–2017 Succeeded byJustin Milne
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James Spigelman
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