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The New South Wales Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in New South Wales. It is located at Queen’s Square, Sydney. The New South Wales Supreme Court deals with serious criminal matters and has unlimited jurisdiction with respect to civil matters within the state. There are 52 permanent judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Criminal matters

The New South Wales Supreme Court’s criminal list deals with very serious criminal matters such as murder, treason, serious drug matters and serious breaches of the Corporations Act. These matters begin in the Local Court or Children’s Court but are finalised by way of a plea or a trial in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court can impose much more severe penalties than the Local Court, up to and including life imprisonment.

The Supreme Court hears applications for bail in Supreme Court criminal matters. It also hears applications for a review of a decision by a Magistrate to refuse bail.

Criminal trials in the NSW Supreme Court are generally decided by a jury of 12 citizens. However, in some cases, a party may make an application for a trial by judge alone. This may be granted by consent between the parties or even where the other party opposes the application. It generally occurs where there has been jury, witness or judicial officer tampering and there is no other way to mitigate against the risk of an unfair trial.

Civil matters

The New South Wales Supreme Court’s civil list deals with civil matters where the amount in dispute is more than $750,000 as well as civil matters of wills and injunctions. The civil list of the Supreme Court includes personal injury matters, professional negligence matters, breach of contract and defamation.


When a person dies, it may be necessary for the executor of their estate to apply for a grant of probate. A grant of probate is a legal document that gives the executor the authority to manage their estate according to the provisions of their will. The grant of probate can be presented to persons who are holding assets of the deceased or who are debtors of the estate and require them to transfer them to the executor for distribution to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

An application for probate may be contested or uncontested.


The Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal are both constituted by judges of the NSW Supreme Court. These courts hear appeals against decisions by the NSW District Court, the NSW Local Court and decisions by a single judge of the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals from the Land and Environment Court of NSW and from a number of tribunals.

An appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal or the Court of Criminal Appeal can be made to the High Court with leave to appeal from the High Court.

Judicial review

The New South Wales Supreme Court also has a judicial review jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is responsible for reviewing activities of the executive arm of government, for the exercise of judicial power by NSW courts and tribunals and for reviewing the constitutional validity of NSW legislation.

Administrative decisions that are reviewable by the NSW Supreme Court include decisions by claim assessors under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act and assessments of the degree of impairment under workers’ compensation legislation.

Administrative law is focussed on the interpretation of legislation and the correct exercise and limits on the powers exercised by decision-makers.


If you are filing an application in the Supreme Court, there is likely to be a filing fee payable. If you are experiencing financial hardship you may be able to have the fee waived on this basis, but you will need to provide supporting documentation (such as a health care card) to the court.

Court etiquette

If you are attending the Supreme Court as a party in any proceeding or because you have been summonsed for jury service, it is important to be aware of court etiquette. You should arrive at court well in advance of the time your matter is listed to be heard. Dress neatly and conservatively and ensure your phone is switched off or on silent. When you enter a courtroom, make sure you do not have sunglasses or hats on and be silent whilst in the court, except when the court requires you to speak.

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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