- 1881-01-01 - (Creation)
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A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.
The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).
Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.
In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.
The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
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Cause Books record civil action from its generation to the end of the action, including the judgement given, unless the case has been discontinued, abandoned or dismissed, in which case that will be stated. If subsequent to the judgement, an appeal is raised the case becomes a new and separate case and a new file is raised (WAS 202). The appeal will not be shown in the Cause Book. From 1881-1889 causes are listed by annual single number (1-62/1881, 1-110/1882 etc). This numbering corresponds with the file numbers (see WAS 201).
From 1889-1945 Causes are listed by running numbers under each letter of the alphabet, the letter used being that of the plaintiff's name.
Volumes 4 and 5 are arranged as a through index.
In Volumes 6-42 index by defendant's name is at front or back of volume. (See WAS 186 for earlier indexes). Cause Books show number, date, plaintiff and defendant, solicitor, amount (fine?) proceedings.
The Cause Books are the "way in" to the Civil Writs files (WAS 201).
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Copies: Microfilm copies available in the State Records Office of Western Australia