Head honcho at NSW Supreme Court announces retirement

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst believes that the time has come for a reinvigoration of the court

Head honcho at NSW Supreme Court announces retirement

NSW Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC has announced his retirement from the bench.

“Although my enthusiasm for the role is undiminished, I believe that after more than a decade in office it’s time for the court to be reinvigorated and a new leader to be appointed to take the court into the future,” he said in a statement on Thursday that was published by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Bathurst pointed out that his tenure has been defined by unique challenges and a greater embrace of tech and social media.

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“My successor, undoubtedly, will face new and presently unforeseen challenges in the years ahead. But one thing he or she can count on is the support of a highly skilled, committed and collegiate group of judges,” he said.

Having first stepped into the chief justice role in 2011, Bathurst will have sat on the bench for nearly 11 years by the time he formally vacates the position on 5 March next year. Nonetheless, the judge said that he would still be “watching with interest from the sidelines.”

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said in a media release that the government would provide an update on who would succeed Bathurst in due time. Speakman, who ascended to the attorney-general role in 2017, was Bathurst’s fourth attorney general.

Speakman praised Bathurst’s leadership, particularly during COVID-19.

“NSW has been fortunate to have a chief justice of his Honour’s exceptional abilities and personal qualities to head the nation-leading Supreme Court, particularly recently through a once in a century pandemic,” Speakman said. “His Honour, supported by his hard-working fellow judges and very able Supreme Court staff, worked to keep the wheels of justice rolling, harnessing technology to ensure, where possible, proceedings continued in a COVID-safe manner.”

Speakman expressed his confidence that Bathurst “has many significant contributions to make to the law in this state once he leaves the bench.”

NSW Law Society President Juliana Warner said in a media release that Bathurst had made “a significant and lasting contribution to the service of the law and the administration of justice in our state” during his time as chief justice.

“His Honour is universally respected and has that rare mix of a brilliant intellect, common sense, humanity and good humour. Our state has benefited enormously from his time leading the Supreme Court,” she said. “On behalf of the state’s 36,000 solicitors, and all who come into contact with the NSW judicial system, I thank the chief justice for his years of service, including more than a decade as the highest-ranking judicial officer in this state.”

Bathurst’s official farewell ceremony will take place next year.

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