Supreme Court of Tasmania

Supreme Court of Tasmania - Chief Justices

Sir Herbert Nicholls, KCMG (1914-1937):

Herbert Nichollswas born on 11 August 1868 at Ballarat West, Victoria. In 1883 Nicholls moved to Hobart. He was admitted to the Bar in 1892. Nicholls was elected to the House of Assembly in 1900 and from 1903-04 he held the position of Attorney-General. Nicholls was one of the founders of the official Tasmanian Law Reports in 1905. In 1906 Nicholls became the leader of the Opposition and remained in office until 1 January 1909 when he was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania. As a judge Nicholls was conservative, tending to interpret the law so as to maintain the status quo. On 1 July 1914 Nicholls was appointed Chief Justice.

From 1914 onwards Nicholls sat on many royal commissions and he was also active in the recruiting campaigns of World War I. He was knighted in June 1916. Nicholls was Administrator of Tasmania in March-July 1917, February-April 1920 and 1922-24. In 1927 he was appointed KCMG. From 23 December 1930 to 4 August 1933 Nicholls held office as Lieutenant-Governor. During the Depression years he accepted reductions of 83 per cent in the governor's and 25 per cent in the Chief Justice's salaries and organised and chaired the Citizens' Relief Committee. Nicholls became interested in law reform and initiated an amendment to the Jury Act 1899 in 1936 which allowed majority verdicts in criminal cases.

Nicholls retired from the bench on 1 November 1937 and died in Hobart on 11 November 1940.