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AU WA S298




  • 1898-01-01 - 1947-01-01 (Creation)

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Administrative history

A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.

The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).

Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.

In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.

The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

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Scope and content

The Supreme Court of W.A. has wide appellate jurisdiction - everything dealt with elsewhere has a final appeal to the Supreme Court. Registers of Full Court Orders record orders handed down by the Full Court which fulfills the appeal function of the Supreme Court. Under the Supreme Court Act of 1880 there was provision for one or more puisne judges who with the Chief Justice would constitute the Full Court. The Full Court was not given the status of a Court of Appeal until 1886. The Rules of 1888 provided that all appeals from local or inferior courts, as well as from a single judge, were to be made to the Full Court.

With the appointment of a third judge to the Supreme Court in 1892, the Full Court became a more satisfactory appeal court, in that the decision of the trial judge, who usually sat also in the Full Court, could be reversed by the other two.

The registers record orders handed down by the Full Court with names of parties and date. An appeal number may be given, or a cause number (civil number as in Cause Books, WAS 185). Volumes 4-7 include a nominal index. Volumes 1-3 are indexed by Index of Full Court orders (WAS 208).
There is no direct link with the Appeals files (WAS 202).


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Range Control Symbol = 1 - 7

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