From today the ACT Supreme Court comes under the province of the ACT Legislative Assembly and Executive.
A formal ceremony will be held at the court to mark the occasion this morning.
The significance of today’s change is that the Assembly and its Executive (for practical purposes, the Attorney-General) become responsible for the administration of the courts as well as appointments to the Bench.
There has long been judicial and legal disquiet about the transfer. However, the Chief Justice, Justice Jeffrey Miles, said yesterday that despite earlier misapprehensions, people now had a better idea of the court’s role and he was confident that what had been hammered out would work well.
A year ago in reply to the Curtis report on ACT courts he said he thought it incongruous that a court charged with the duty of determining the ambit of the Assembly’s constitutional power should be subordinate to the Assembly.
He the court should be independent under the Commonwealth with the power of appointment and removal of judges staying with the Commonwealth.
Yesterday he did not resile from that, saying the ACT Supreme Court (Transfer) Act of the Commonwealth Parliament, which comes into force today, was not precisely what he had hoped for. But what had been worked out between the court and the ACT and Federal Government’s had allayed much of his earlier misapprehension.
The Act establishes the judiciary as the third arm of the ACT polity and vests it with “”all original and appellate jurisdiction that is necessary for the administration of justice in the Territory.”
It provides that Assembly law on the removal of judges must provide for a judicial commission of serving or former superior court judges and a judge can only be removed if the commission finds facts that could amount to misbehaviour or incapacity to warrant removal and the Assembly passes a motion requiring the ACT Executive to remove the judge.
The ACT will control judicial pay, but cannot cut present judges’ pay.
On appointments, the ACT Attorney-General will, as a practical matter, have to pay some deference to his or her Federal counterpart. Appeals from the ACT Supreme Court now go to the Federal Court and invariably have at least one of the three resident ACT Supreme Court sitting as a Federal Court judge on the appeal Bench. Thus, for practical purposes, any new ACT judge would have to be a Federal Court judges as well.
Point to Wednesday magazine please.