Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Executive Council (a council of State Ministers including the Premier) from the ranks of barristers and solicitors who have at least 10 years’ standing in their profession.
Judges are addressed as “Your Honour” during court proceedings. They have a personal staff of three – an associate, executive assistant and attendant.
Judges wear black robes with red trim in court for criminal matters and black robes for civil matters. They also wear bench wigs for criminal matters, but not for civil matters.
The bench of the Supreme Court currently consists of the Chief Justice and five other judges, known as “puisne judges”. This is an Anglo-French term meaning subordinate and pronounced “puny”.
The Associate Judge is appointed by the Governor in the same manner as a judge. The Associate Judge assists the judges in conducting the civil jurisdiction of the Court. For instance, he/she deals with interlocutory, that is procedural, applications in civil matters before they come on for trial; and can make assessments of damages in civil cases.
For a legal system in a democracy to work properly, it is necessary for:
Law Makers (State Parliament);
Law Enforcers (Police and the Public Service); and
Law Interpreters (Courts and Judiciary)
to be separate and independent.
In Australia, there is a convention, which is commonly referred to as the doctrine of separation of powers, by which judges remain totally independent following their appointment. This independence is secured by certain legislative measures and conventions including:
- A prohibition against judges holding any other paid office;
- The fixing of judicial salaries by the Legislature, rather than the Executive or the Public Service;
- The provision that a judge can only be dismissed for misconduct by the Governor at the request of both Houses of Parliament;
- The convention that a judge should not engage in political or any other public activity which might have the effect of identifying him or her with one segment of the community as opposed to another.