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The ACT Supreme Court

The ACT Supreme Court is the highest court in the Australian Capital Territory. It hears serious criminal matters as well as civil matters and appeals. The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to hear corporations matters, adoption matters and probate matters. It also hears matters on appeal from the ACT Magistrates Court, the ACT Children’s Court and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).

The ACT Supreme Court is governed by the Supreme Court Act 1933. 

Criminal matters

The ACT Supreme Court hears the most serious criminal matters such as murder and manslaughter. These matters are commenced in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court, then proceed through a committal hearing and are transferred to the Supreme Court if there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt against the accused. Once a matter has been committed to the Supreme Court, the defendant indicates how they are pleading and the matter proceeds either to sentencing or to a trial.

Criminal trials in the Supreme Court can be heard by a judge alone or by a judge and jury, with the defendant making an election.

Civil matters

The Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction to hear civil matters. However civil matters where the amount in dispute is less than $250,000 are generally filed in the Magistrates Court.


The Registrar of the ACT Supreme Court decides applications for probate and administrations of estates. A person seeking authority to administer an estate can make an application themselves or instruct a lawyer to do so on their behalf.

An application for probate is made when a deceased person has left a will naming the applicant as their executor. An application for letters of administration of an estate is made when there is either no executor named or the will appoints an executor who is unable or unwilling to act. An application for letters of administration (no will) is made when a person dies intestate. These applications are decided on the papers when all the required material is submitted and the fee is paid.

Court of Appeal

The ACT Court of Appeal hears appeals against decisions by the Supreme Court. Appeals are decided by a panel of three judges.

The ACT Court of Appeal was established in 2001. Prior to that, appeals were made to the High Court of Australia (from 1934 to 1977) and then to the Federal Court of Australia (from 1977 to 2002).

Decisions of the Court of Appeal can be appealed to the High Court of Australia. However, leave is required to appeal to the High Court.

Fees and fines

If you have a fine that was ordered by the ACT Supreme Court, this must be paid directly to the court.

If you are initiating proceedings in the ACT Supreme Court, there is likely to be a filing fee associated with this. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be able to have this fee waived upon supplying evidence of this to the court.

Attending court

If you are required to attend the ACT Supreme Court for any matter, it is important to observe court etiquette. This means dressing neatly and conservatively, and arriving well before the time your matter is listed. Make sure your phone is switched to silent before you enter the courtroom and if you need to address the judge directly, call them “Your Honour”.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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