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List of justices of the High Court of Australia

Official photograph of the first session of the High Court of Australia in the Banco Court, Supreme Court of Victoria, 6 October 1903. The mounting is autographed by the three foundation justices: from left to right, Edmund Barton, Samuel Griffith and Richard O'Connor.

The High Court of Australia is composed of seven justices: the chief justice of Australia and six other justices. There have been 57 justices who have served as justices of the High Court since its formation under the Judiciary Act 1903. Under Section 71 of the Australian Constitution, the judicial power of the Commonwealth of Australia is vested in the court,[1] and it has been the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy since the passing of the Australia Act 1986.

In a May 2017 speech, Justice Virginia Bell observed that "few Australians outside the law schools are likely to be able to name the Chief Justice, let alone the puisne justices of the High Court".[2]

History

Initially, there were three justices of the High Court – Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffith, Justice Sir Edmund Barton and Justice Richard Edward O'Connor.[3] The number was expanded in 1906, at the request of the justices, to five, with the appointment of Justices Sir Isaac Isaacs and H. B. Higgins. After O'Connor's death in 1912, an amendment to the Judiciary Act 1903 expanded the bench to seven. For most of 1930, two seats were left vacant due to monetary constraints placed on the court by the Depression. The economic downturn had also led to a reduction in litigation and consequently less work for the court. After Isaacs retired in 1931, his seat was left empty, and in 1933 an amendment to the Judiciary Act officially reduced the number of seats to six. However, this led to some decisions being split three-all. With the appointment of William Webb in 1946, the number of seats returned to seven, and since then the court has had seven justices.[4] As of 2021 there have been 55 justices, 13 of whom have been chief justice.

Appointments to the court were for life until 1977, when a mandatory retirement age of 70 was established, though several post-1977 justices have retired before reaching the age of 70 (William Deane resigned as a justice to be appointed governor-general).

Composition of the High Court

There have been 57 justices of the High Court; fifty have been men and seven women. The first female justice was Mary Gaudron who was a justice from 1987 to 2003. Susan Crennan was a justice from 2005 to 2015, and Virginia Bell from 2009 to 2021. Susan Kiefel was the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice of Australia. She was appointed in 2017 and had been a justice from 2007 to 2017. Of the seven current justices, four are men, including the chief justice, and three are women. Michelle Gordon was appointed in 2015 and Jacqueline Gleeson in 2021, replacing Bell. Jayne Jagot replaced Justice Keane on the court in 2022, giving women a majority on the High Court for a period of just over a year.

Thirteen politicians, serving or former, have been appointed to the High Court of Australia. Nine justices have served in the Parliament of Australia: Edmund Barton, Richard O'Connor, Isaac Isaacs, H. B. Higgins, Edward McTiernan, H. V. Evatt, John Latham, Garfield Barwick, and Lionel Murphy. All but Evatt were appointed after their parliamentary service; Evatt resigned from the bench in order to pursue his federal political career, although he had previously served in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. In addition to the above, four justices served in colonial parliaments: Samuel Griffith, Charles Powers, Albert Piddington and Adrian Knox, although all concluded their political careers more than 10 years prior to their appointments. The most recent justice to serve in state or federal parliament is Lionel Murphy.

The majority of justices have come from the eastern states, particularly New South Wales (29 justices), Victoria (16 justices) and Queensland Queensland (8 justices). It was not until 1979 that a justice was appointed from Western Australia. There has never been a justice from South Australia. Robert Beech-Jones was born in Tasmania but went to university in Canberra and spent most of his career in Sydney.

Most justices had previously served as judges of other Australian courts prior to their appointment to the High Court. Prior to the creation of the Federal Court of Australia in 1976, this was primarily the Supreme Courts of the States. Since 1976, a number of justices of the Federal Court have been appointed to the High Court. A small number of justices served on both a State Supreme Court and the Federal Court before being appointed to the High Court.

List of justices

The current judges are listed in bold on the table below.

# Image Name State Birth – death Position Term
began
Term
ended
Time in office PM at app't Prev.
experience
Notes
1 Sir Samuel Griffith Qld 1845–1920 Chief justice 5 October 1903 17 October 1919 16 years, 12 days Deakin Chief justice,
Sup Ct of Qld
2 Sir Edmund Barton NSW 1849–1920 Justice 5 October 1903 7 January 1920 16 years, 94 days Deakin None Former prime minister
Died in office
3 Richard O'Connor NSW 1851–1912 Justice 5 October 1903 18 November 1912 9 years, 44 days Deakin None Died in office
4 Sir Isaac Isaacs Vic 1855–1948 Justice 12 October 1906 21 January 1931 24 years, 101 days [a] Deakin None Resigned to be appointed governor-general
Chief justice 2 April 1930 21 January 1931 294 days Scullin
5 H. B. Higgins Vic 1851–1929 Justice 13 October 1906 13 January 1929 22 years, 92 days Deakin None Died in office
6 Sir Frank Gavan Duffy Vic 1852–1936 Justice 11 February 1913 1 October 1935 22 years, 232 days [a] Fisher None
Chief justice 22 January 1931 1 October 1935 4 years, 252 days Scullin
7 Sir Charles Powers Qld 1853–1939 Justice 5 March 1913 22 July 1929 16 years, 139 days Fisher None
8* Albert Piddington NSW 1862–1945 Justice 6 March 1913 5 April 1913 30 days [b] Fisher None Resigned before sitting
9 Sir George Rich NSW 1863–1956 Justice 5 April 1913 5 May 1950 37 years, 30 days Fisher Sup Ct of NSW
10 Sir Adrian Knox NSW 1863–1932 Chief justice 18 October 1919 31 March 1930 10 years, 164 days Hughes None
11 Sir Hayden Starke Vic 1871–1958 Justice 5 February 1920 31 January 1950 29 years, 360 days Hughes None
12 Sir Owen Dixon Vic 1886–1972 Justice 4 February 1929 13 April 1964 35 years, 69 days [a] Bruce None
Chief justice 18 April 1952 13 April 1964 11 years, 361 days [a] Menzies
13 H. V. Evatt NSW 1894–1965 Justice 19 December 1930 2 September 1940 9 years, 258 days Scullin None Resigned to return to politics
14 Sir Edward McTiernan NSW 1892–1990 Justice 20 December 1930 12 September 1976 45 years, 267 days Scullin None
15 Sir John Latham Vic 1877–1964 Chief justice 11 October 1935 7 April 1952 16 years, 179 days Lyons None
16 Sir Dudley Williams NSW 1889–1963 Justice 15 October 1940 31 July 1958 17 years, 289 days Menzies Sup Ct of NSW
17 Sir William Webb Qld 1887–1972 Justice 16 May 1946 16 May 1958 12 years, 0 days Chifley Chief justice,
Sup Ct of Qld
18 Sir Wilfred Fullagar Vic 1892–1961 Justice 8 February 1950 9 July 1961 11 years, 151 days Menzies Sup Ct of Vic Died in office
19 Sir Frank Kitto NSW 1903–1994 Justice 10 May 1950 1 August 1970 20 years, 83 days Menzies None
20 Sir Alan Taylor NSW 1901–1969 Justice 3 September 1952 3 August 1969 16 years, 334 days Menzies Sup Ct of NSW Died in office
21 Sir Douglas Menzies Vic 1907–1974 Justice 12 June 1958 29 November 1974 16 years, 170 days Menzies None Died in office
22 Sir Victor Windeyer NSW 1900–1987 Justice 8 September 1958 29 February 1972 13 years, 174 days Menzies None
23 Sir William Owen NSW 1899–1972 Justice 22 September 1961 31 March 1972 10 years, 191 days Menzies Sup Ct of NSW Died in office
24 Sir Garfield Barwick NSW 1903–1997 Chief justice 27 April 1964 11 February 1981 16 years, 290 days Menzies None
25 Sir Cyril Walsh NSW 1909–1973 Justice 20 September 1969 29 November 1973 4 years, 70 days Gorton Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
Died in office
26 Sir Harry Gibbs Qld 1917–2005 Justice 4 August 1970 5 February 1987 16 years, 185 days [a] Gorton Fed Ct of BK
Sup Ct of Qld
Chief justice 12 February 1981 5 February 1987 5 years, 358 days [a][c] Fraser
27 Sir Ninian Stephen Vic 1923–2017 Justice 1 March 1972 11 May 1982 10 years, 71 days McMahon Sup Ct of Vic Resigned to be appointed governor-general
28 Sir Anthony Mason NSW 1925– Justice 7 August 1972 20 April 1995 22 years, 256 days [a] McMahon Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
Chief justice 6 February 1987 20 April 1995 8 years, 73 days [c] Hawke
29 Sir Kenneth Jacobs NSW 1917–2015 Justice 8 February 1974 6 April 1979 5 years, 57 days Whitlam Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
30 Lionel Murphy NSW 1922–1986 Justice 10 February 1975 21 October 1986 11 years, 253 days Whitlam None Died in office
31 Sir Keith Aickin Vic 1916–1982 Justice 20 September 1976 18 June 1982 5 years, 271 days Fraser None Died in office
32 Sir Ronald Wilson WA 1922–2005 Justice 21 May 1979 13 February 1989 9 years, 268 days [c] Fraser None
33 Sir Gerard Brennan Qld 1928–2022 Justice 12 February 1981 21 May 1998 17 years, 98 days [a][c] Fraser Fed Ct
Chief justice 21 April 1995 21 May 1998 3 years, 30 days [c] Keating
34 Sir William Deane NSW 1931– Justice 25 June 1982 11 November 1995 13 years, 139 days [c] Fraser Fed Ct Resigned to be appointed governor-general
35 Sir Daryl Dawson Vic 1933– Justice 30 July 1982 15 August 1997 15 years, 16 days [c] Fraser None
36 John Toohey WA 1930–2015 Justice 6 February 1987 2 February 1998 10 years, 361 days [c] Hawke Fed Ct
37 Mary Gaudron NSW 1943– Justice 6 February 1987 31 January 2003 15 years, 359 days [c] Hawke None
38 Michael McHugh NSW 1935– Justice 14 February 1989 31 October 2005 16 years, 259 days [c] Hawke Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
39 William Gummow NSW 1942– Justice 21 April 1995 8 October 2012 17 years, 170 days [c] Keating Fed Ct
40 Michael Kirby NSW 1939– Justice 6 February 1996 2 February 2009 12 years, 362 days [c] Keating Sup Ct of NSW
Pres, NSW Ct of App
41 Kenneth Hayne Vic 1945– Justice 22 September 1997 5 June 2015 17 years, 256 days [c] Howard Sup Ct of Vic
Vic Ct of App
42 Ian Callinan Qld 1937– Justice 3 February 1998 31 August 2007[5] 9 years, 209 days [c] Howard None
43 Murray Gleeson NSW 1938– Chief justice 22 May 1998 29 August 2008[6] 10 years, 99 days [c] Howard Chief justice,
Sup Ct of NSW
44 Dyson Heydon NSW 1943– Justice 1 February 2003 28 February 2013 10 years, 27 days [c] Howard Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
45 Susan Crennan Vic 1945– Justice 1 November 2005 2 February 2015 9 years, 93 days [c] Howard Fed Ct
46 Susan Kiefel Qld 1954– Justice 4 September 2007 5 November 2023 16 years, 62 days [a][c] Howard Sup Ct of Qld
Fed Ct
Chief justice 30 January 2017 5 November 2023 6 years, 279 days [c] Turnbull
47 Robert French WA 1947– Chief justice 8 September 2008[6] 29 January 2017 8 years, 143 days [c] Rudd Fed Ct
48 Virginia Bell NSW 1951– Justice 3 February 2009[7] 28 February 2021 12 years, 25 days [c] Rudd Sup Ct of NSW
NSW Ct of App
49 Stephen Gageler NSW 1958– Justice 9 October 2012[8] Incumbent 11 years, 224 days [c] Gillard None
Chief justice 6 November 2023 Incumbent 196 days [c] Albanese
50 Patrick Keane Qld 1952– Justice 1 March 2013 17 October 2022[9] 9 years, 230 days [c] Gillard Sup Ct of Qld
Fed Ct
51 Geoffrey Nettle Vic 1950– Justice 3 February 2015 30 November 2020 5 years, 301 days [c] Abbott Sup Ct of Vic
52 Michelle Gordon Vic 1964– Justice 9 June 2015 Incumbent 8 years, 346 days [c] Abbott Fed Ct
53 James Edelman WA 1974– Justice 30 January 2017 Incumbent 7 years, 111 days [c] Turnbull Fed Ct
Sup Ct of WA
54 Simon Steward Vic 1969– Justice 1 December 2020 Incumbent 3 years, 171 days [c] Morrison Fed Ct
55 Jacqueline Gleeson NSW 1966– Justice 1 March 2021 Incumbent 3 years, 80 days [c] Morrison Fed Ct
56 Jayne Jagot NSW 1964/65– Justice 17 October 2022 Incumbent 1 year, 216 days [c] Albanese Fed Ct
NSW LEC
57 Robert Beech-Jones NSW c.1964 Justice 6 November 2023 Incumbent 196 days [c] Albanese Sup Ct of NSW
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Terms as puisne justice and chief justice combined
  2. ^ Albert Piddington resigned from the High Court before being sworn in. He never sat on the High Court bench.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Justices to whom mandatory retirement (age 70) applied/applies; appointments since 1977

Current justices

Name State Date appointed Mandatory retirement Appointing
Governor-General
Nominating
Prime Minister
Previous posting(s) Education
Stephen Gageler AC
(Chief Justice)
NSW 6 November 2023
(as Chief Justice)
9 October 2012
(as Justice)
5 July 2028 David Hurley (as Chief Justice)
Quentin Bryce (as Justice)
Anthony Albanese (Labor, as Chief Justice)
Julia Gillard (Labor, as Justice)
Solicitor-General of Australia Australian National University
Harvard University
Michelle Gordon AC Vic 9 June 2015 19 November 2034 Peter Cosgrove Tony Abbott (Liberal) Federal Court of Australia University of Western Australia
James Edelman WA 30 January 2017 9 January 2044 Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal) Supreme Court of Western Australia
Federal Court of Australia
University of Western Australia
Murdoch University
University of Oxford
Simon Steward Vic 1 December 2020[10] 9 January 2039[11] David Hurley Scott Morrison (Liberal) Federal Court of Australia University of Melbourne
Jacqueline Gleeson NSW 1 March 2021 6 March 2036 University of Sydney
Jayne Jagot NSW 17 October 2022 19 June 2035[12] Anthony Albanese (Labor) Federal Court of Australia
Land and Environment Court of New South Wales
Macquarie University
University of Sydney
Robert Beech-Jones NSW 6 November 2023 12 March 2035[13] Supreme Court of New South Wales Australian National University

Seats of the High Court

This following chart illustrates the composition of the High Court. It indicates the seven seats of the court, and who has occupied each seat at different points in the court's existence. The red portions represent the future part of a judge's term and show the date at which they are bound to retire from the court (although they may choose to retire before that date). The blue portions of a judge's term show a period in which that judge was chief justice.

Jayne JagotPatrick KeaneDyson HeydonMary GaudronHarry GibbsFrank KittoGeorge RichAlbert PiddingtonJacqueline GleesonVirginia BellMichael Kirby (judge)William DeaneNinian StephenVictor WindeyerDudley WilliamsH.V. EvattCharles PowersJames EdelmanRobert FrenchMurray GleesonGerard BrennanGarfield BarwickOwen DixonH.B. HigginsRobert Beech-JonesSusan KiefelIan CallinanJohn TooheyLionel MurphyDouglas MenziesWilliam Webb (judge)Isaac IsaacsSimon Steward (judge)Geoffrey NettleSusan CrennanMichael McHughRonald WilsonKenneth JacobsCyril WalshAlan Taylor (jurist)John Latham (judge)Frank Gavan DuffyRichard O'Connor (Australian politician)Stephen GagelerWilliam GummowAnthony MasonWilliam Owen (judge)Wilfred FullagarHayden StarkeEdmund BartonMichelle GordonKenneth HayneDaryl DawsonKeith AickinEdward McTiernanAdrian KnoxSamuel Griffith

See also

References

  1. ^ Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (Cth) s 71
  2. ^ Bell, Virginia (29 May 2017). "Examining the Judge: Launch of Issue 40(2) UNSW Law Journal" (PDF). High Court of Australia. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  3. ^ "History of the High Court". High Court. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  4. ^ Dixon, R; Williams, G, eds. (2015). The High Court, the Constitution and Australian Politics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 78–80, 118–119, 141–143, 160, 161. ISBN 9781107043664. Archived from the original on 5 February 2021. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Callinan retires from High Court", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 31 August 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Chief Justice honoured at retirement ceremony". ABC News. 29 August 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  7. ^ "Michael Kirby leaves High Court bench with 'faith' in law intact". The Australian. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  8. ^ "Solicitor-General Gagelar appointed to High Court". ABC News. 21 August 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  9. ^ Pelly, Michael (13 October 2022). "Keane laments exit after 'wonderful' innings on High Court". Australian Financial Review. Nine Entertainment Company. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  10. ^ Morrison, Scott (28 October 2020). "Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT". Prime Minister of Australia. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  11. ^ "Federal Court of Australia". Australian Government Directory. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  12. ^ "Federal Court of Australia | Directory". Commonwealth of Australia. 17 October 2022. Archived from the original on 17 October 2022. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  13. ^ Bell, Andrew (19 October 2023). "FAREWELL CEREMONIAL SITTING FOR THE HON. JUSTICE ROBERT BEECH-JONES, CHIEF JUDGE AT COMMON LAW" (PDF). Supreme Court of New South Wales. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 November 2023. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
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List of justices of the High Court of Australia
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