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Supreme Court of Tasmania building, Hobart
The Supreme Court of Tasmania is the highest State court in the Australian State of Tasmaniamarker. In the Australian court hierarchy, the Supreme Court of Tasmania is in the middle level, and is able to both receive appeals from lower courts, and able to be appealed from.

The ordinary sittings of the Court occur in Hobartmarker, Launcestonmarker and Burniemarker in Tasmania. The Court's Appeal division sits only in Hobartmarker.

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. The Court is the oldest Supreme Court in Australia and predates the Supreme Court of New South Walesmarker, if only by a period of just ten days. Sir John Pedder, after whom Lake Peddermarker 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.

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).

Appeals from the Appeal Division of the Court are to the High Court of Australiamarker. 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 British Privy Council, but this ceased in 1986 when the Parliament of Australia passed the Australia Act 1986, which barred all such appeals to the Privy Council from Australian courts.

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 Tasmaniamarker in both criminal and civil matters. Serious (or "indictable") criminal matters are first examined in the Magistrates Court in a Committal process, where it is decided whether a case should proceed to trial, and then transferred to the Supreme Court of Tasmania for trial or (where there is a plea of guilty) for sentence.

It should be noted that this committal process is in the process of being abolished in Tasmania, with legislation currently before the state parliament.

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").

Composition of the Court

The Supreme Court of Tasmania is composed of six judges appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Executive Council, a body of senior ministers including the state Premier. The current bench of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in order of seniority (with dates of appointment to the bench) are:

There is also one lesser judicial officer, called the Associate Judge (previously called the Master), with responsibility for largely procedural matters in civil and criminal proceedings, and for some work in assessing the damages (amounts claimable) in civil proceedings. The current Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania is Mr Stephen Holt (appointed 6 September 1999).

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