Chief Justice Tom Bathurst to retire in 2022

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst to retire in 2022

21 October 2021 By Naomi Neilson

After more than a decade serving the NSW legal profession as the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Honourable Tom Bathurst has announced his retirement.

Justice Bathurst said that although his enthusiasm for the role is undiminished, he believes that it is time for the court to “be reinvigorated and a new leader to be appointed to take the court into the future”. He informed the NSW Attorney-General and Governor that his forthcoming retirement would take effect in March 2022.

In announcing that his almost 11 years as leader of the Supreme Court would soon be coming to an end, Justice Bathurst said it has been “an honour and a privilege” to have the role and thanked all judges, judicial staff and registry staff for their “immense contribution” in ensuring the court provides access to justice efficiently.

“I also thank the legal profession and the four [attorneys-general] during my time as Chief Justice for their continuing support over that period,” Justice Bathurst said.

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During his time in office, the court has responded to a series of challenges, most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Other changes include managing increased demand, new areas of dispute, a policy for all criminal matters to be case managed from arraignment to trial, and establishing new lists for areas like child sexual abuse.

“The court has embraced the increasing use of technology, which has enabled it to continue to conduct all civil matters before it during the course of the pandemic,” Justice Bathurst added. “It has promoted open justice by the provision of judgement summaries in cases of interest and importance, the publication of cases of interest and the use of social media to inform the public of its judgements and activities.”

President of the NSW Law Society Juliana Warner said Justice Bathurst had made a “significant and lasting contribution to the service of law” and the administration of justice. On behalf of the state’s 36,000 solicitors and all who come into contact with the NSW court system, Ms Warner thanked the Chief Justice for his years of service.

“His honour is universally respected and has that rare mix of brilliant intellect, common sense, humanity and good humour,” Ms Warner said. “In more recent times, the Chief Justice has displayed outstanding leadership in guiding our courts through the uncertainties of the pandemic.

“Our state has benefitted enormously from his time leading the Supreme Court.”

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Commenting on the retirement, Attorney-General Mark Speakman said NSW has been fortunate to have a Chief Justice of his honour’s “exceptional abilities and personal qualities” to lead the Supreme Court.

“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.

“I am grateful for his honour’s helpful advice and candour since I became his fourth Attorney-General in 2017,” Mr Speakman said.

Justice Bathurst acknowledged that his successor would undoubtedly 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,” Justice Bathurst said. “I will be watching with interest from the sidelines, although I must confess, I hope that is not all I have to do in occupying my time.”

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst to retire in 2022
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