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AU WA S934




  • 1880-01-01 - (Creation)

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Administrative history

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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The Railways Act 42 Vic 31 of 1878 made provisions for land to be taken, entered on, used or resumed for certain purposes relating to the building of railways.
Persons affected had to establish title to the land and submit a claim to the Commissioner of Railways.
The legislation involved the Supreme Court in this area of payment and compensation in several ways. The files represent actions taken in connection with these areas.

1. If the person and the Commissioner could not reach agreement on the amount of payment, they could agree on an arbitrator or nominate one each. If the latter, they also had to agree on an umpire. If they could not, the Supreme Court would appoint one.

2. If the Commissioner repudiated a person's claim to title in the land, the person could bring the matter before the Supreme Court.

3. The Railways Amendment Act 43 Vic 10 of 1879, gave the Master of the Supreme Court the power to decide the amount of compensation or payment if the owner could not be located.

4. 43 Vic 10 also provided that the payment should be made to the Master of the Supreme Court in cases where a person only held a partial or qualified interest (eg, rent or income from the land for life through the terms of a will), and did not possess title to the land. The money was to be invested and the proceeds paid to the person.

State Archives does not hold registers for these files. The consignment lists show parties to the case, or the lot numbers of the land where parties could not be identified. A control number has been allocated for use when requesting a file.


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Range Control Symbol = 1 -

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