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Supreme Court of Tasmania

Supreme Court of Tasmania
Arms of the Supreme Court of Tasmania
Supreme Court of Tasmania building, Hobart
42°53′10″S 147°19′46″E / 42.886048°S 147.329556°E / -42.886048; 147.329556
Established10 May 1824
Jurisdiction Tasmania
Coordinates42°53′10″S 147°19′46″E / 42.886048°S 147.329556°E / -42.886048; 147.329556
Composition methodVice-regal appointment upon Premier's nomination, following advice of the Attorney General and the Executive Council.
Authorized byParliament of Tasmania via the: Supreme Court Act 1959 (Tas)
Appeals toHigh Court of Australia
Appeals fromMagistrates' Court of Tasmania
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement by age of 72
Number of positions7
Chief Justice of Tasmania
CurrentlyAlan Blow OAM
Since8 April 2013
Launceston Supreme Court
Burnie Supreme & Magisterial Courts

The Supreme Court of Tasmania is the highest State court in the Australian State of Tasmania. In the Australian court hierarchy, the Supreme Court of Tasmania is in the middle level, with both an appellate jurisdiction over lower courts, and decisions made by Court to be heard on appeal by the High Court of Australia.

The ordinary sittings of the Court occur in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie in Tasmania. The Court's Appeal division sits only in Hobart.

History of the Court

The Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land (as Tasmania was then known) was established by The Royal Letters Patent of 13 October 1823 and commenced activities on 10 May 1824.[1] The Court is the oldest Supreme Court in Australia and predates the Supreme Court of New South Wales, if only by a period of just ten days. The supreme courts of Tasmania and New South Wales were initiated through the New South Wales Act 1823, and this gave those courts jurisdiction over New Zealand.[2] Sir John Pedder, after whom Lake Pedder is named, was the first Chief Justice of the court.

The first counsel to appear before the Court was Joseph Tice Gellibrand, who was appointed Tasmania's first Attorney-General, and took his oaths on the first day of the new Court. The first case before the Court was the trial of William Tibbs, who was found guilty and sentenced for manslaughter, receiving 3 years transportation.[3]

Jurisdiction of the Court

It has unlimited jurisdiction within the state in civil matters and hears the most serious criminal matters. It is around the middle of the Australian court hierarchy. The Supreme Court consists of a Trial Division (also known as Original Jurisdiction) and an Appeal Division (or Appellate Jurisdiction).[4] When sitting in its appellate jurisdiction in civil matters it is the "Full Court"; for criminal matters it is the "Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal".[5]

Appeals from the Appeal Division of the Court are to the High Court of Australia. It was previously possible to appeal decisions of the Court of Appeal or the Court of Criminal Appeal (both parts of the Appeal Division) to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, but this ceased in 1986 when the Parliament of Australia passed the Australia Act 1986, which terminated all such appeals to the Privy Council from Australian courts, except for those cases pending at that time.

Civil matters involving consent orders, or for disputes involving less than $50,000, are dealt with by the Magistrates Court except in exceptional circumstances.

The Court receives appeals from Magistrate Courts in Tasmania in both criminal and civil matters. Committal proceedings, which are used in criminal matters to establish whether there is sufficient evidence against an accused person to warrant the time and expense of a trial, were abolished in Tasmania in 2000 with the amendment of the Justices Act 1959 (Tas). The Justices Act 1959 now provides that where there has been a plea of not guilty by an accused, there must be an order committing them for trial in the Supreme Court.

Unlike some other Australian states, Tasmania does not have an intermediate court division between the Supreme Court and the Magistrates Courts (such as a "District Court" or a "County Court").[6]

Composition of the Court

The Supreme Court of Tasmania is composed of up to seven judges appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Executive Council, a body of senior ministers including the state Premier. As of 19 December 2017 the judges of the Supreme Court of Tasmania are:

Position Name Appointment
Term in office Comments Notes
Chief Justice Alan Blow 8 April 2013 10 years, 321 days [7][8]
Judge Alan Blow 13 June 2000 23 years, 255 days [7][8]
Helen Wood 9 November 2009 14 years, 106 days [8]
Stephen Estcourt 8 April 2013 10 years, 321 days [8]
Robert Pearce 11 June 2013 10 years, 257 days [8]
Michael Brett 11 July 2016 7 years, 227 days [8]
Gregory Geason 16 November 2017 6 years, 99 days [8]
Tamara Jago 1 November 2021 2 years, 114 days [9]
Master / Associate Judge [a] Stephen Holt 6 September 1999 24 years, 170 days [8][10]

The Associate Judge, a lower-ranking judicial officer previously called the Master, has responsibility for largely procedural matters in civil and criminal proceedings, and for some work in assessing the damages (amounts claimable) in civil proceedings.

See also


  1. ^ On 1 March 2008 the title "Master" was changed to "Associate Judge"


  1. ^ Supreme Court History – Charter of Justice, Supreme Court of Tasmania
  2. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 16. OCLC 154283103.
  3. ^ R v Tibbs [1824] TASSupC 1 (24 May 1824), Supreme Court (Van Diemen's Land).
  4. ^ Supreme Court – Jurisdiction, Supreme Court of Tasmania
  5. ^ "Supreme Court : Judgments". Supreme Court of Tasmania. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  6. ^ Annual Report 2007–2008, page 23, Supreme Court of Tasmania
  7. ^ a b "The Chief Justices of Tasmania". Supreme Court of Tasmania. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Current judges". Supreme Court of Tasmania. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Tamara Jago - Supreme Court of Tasmania". Supreme Court of Tasmania. Retrieved 2 November 2023.
  10. ^ "Masters". Supreme Court of Tasmania. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
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Supreme Court of Tasmania
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