- 1867-01-01 - (Creation)
Level of description
Name of creator
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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Scope and content
The files are mostly concerned with appeals from Local Courts or on matters of civil jurisdiction. However, they do include appeals from Courts of Petty Sessions or Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. Files of appeals relating to indictable offences are at Record Series No. 276. (Criminal Appeals).
There are no accompanying registers of early appeals. From 1924 there are indexes to appeals from the lower courts, orders to review, and cases stated. See Record Series No. 311.
The Registers of Full Court Orders (Record Series No. 298) record orders handed down by the Full Court and these may correspond with the files in cases where an order was given. However, there is no direct link and not every case for which there is a file is entered in these registers eg, there is no entry if no order was given, or if the case was struck off, or agreement was reached prior to the hearing, or where the case was discontinued. The files may include the following information:
1. Appellant's costs of appeal.
2. Summons to parties concerned to attend the Judge in chambers on date of appeal.
3. Certified copy of order of judgement - shows case number, plaintiff, appearance, defendant, particulars of claim, amount claimed, special defence, for whom judgement given, amount of judgement, costs, order.
6. Entry of appeal.
7. Appeal Book - includes notice of appeal, order, sheriff's interpleaders, summons, affidavit of claimant, notes of evidence etc.
8. Papers for Judges.
9. Notice of Appeal.
10. Praecipe for setting down appeal.
11. Case stated.
12. Motion paper.
13. Entry of an order to review (eg, No. 42/1925).
14. Statement of grounds of appeal (eg, No. 42/1928).
15. Certificate of deposit (money for security of costs of appeal).
The party lodging the appeal is the appellant and the party against whom the appeal is lodged is the respondent. The appellant may be either the plaintiff or defendant in a civil case, or the defendant or the Crown in a criminal case. If the Court of Appeal allows the appeal it is said that the appeal is allowed, and the original decision is reversed. If the appeal is rejected the appeal is said to be dismissed and the original decision affirmed.
Files are generally arranged chronologically and to locate an appeal it is necessary to search files for the period following the original hearing. As mentioned above some appeals may be entered in Registers - Full Court Orders (Record Series No. 298). It is not clear how the fragmented series of registers (Record Series No. 189, Record Series No. 190) relate to the files. Record Series No. 203, Full Court lists, are calendars of hearings of the Full Court.
On Consignment Lists for Cons 3677 and Cons 4491 a file number in brackets after the file title refers to the Civil Writ (Record Series No. 201, Record Series No. 576, Record Series No. 577) or the Appeal number.