NSW Solicitors acknowledge Supreme Court’s 200 years

Law Society of NSW

Solicitors in NSW have supported the work of the Supreme Court of NSW since it was established two hundred years ago today.

When it was first established, just six solicitors were admitted to practice in the court of the first Chief Justice Sir Francis Forbes. Today, that number has eclipsed 42,000 practitioners who’ve each sworn an oath to ‘faithfully serve … in the administration of the laws and usages of this State’.

Since 1968, qualification was extended to solicitors to be appointed directly as Justices of the Supreme Court. The first such appointment, the late Kim Santow AO, was made in 1993. The second most senior judicial officer in NSW, President of the Court of Appeal Hon Justice Julie Ward, was a solicitor when appointed to the bench.

The Supreme Court has overseen the calm application of law across NSW with an independent sense of justice that has animated the common law for more than a thousand years. Without that independence, maintained since Monday, 17 May 1824 the citizens of NSW would be much poorer.

Any acknowledgment of this occasion though, cannot pass without also recognising the broader colonial legacy in which the Supreme Court sits, including the deeply disturbing consequences for the Aboriginal peoples who lived here for five or six hundred centuries or more. The Court’s approach to the Myall Creek massacre stands as a tragically lone example of justice for all peoples in early New South Wales.

Nevertheless, what has happened in the Supreme Court, over the past two hundred years, has happened without serious incident.

There has been public controversy and friction between branches of the legal profession, and different attitudes to the application of the law. But no major incident has scarred this institution or disfigured it. It works in a complex, efficient, and prodigious capacity with an unbroken heritage.

The Law Society expresses its appreciation to Chief Justice Hon Andrew Bell, the present steward of the Supreme Court’s storied history, and thanks him for his active engagement with the solicitor profession, particularly over the course of this bicentennial year.

/Public Release.