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New NSW Chief Justice, Court of Appeal president named

Following the news of Chief Justice Tom Bathurst’s retirement, the next Chief Justice of NSW has been named, as well as a new president of the NSW Court of Appeal.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 16 February 2022 The Bar
New NSW Chief Justice, Court of Appeal president named
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Earlier today, her excellency the Governor of NSW, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, appointed the Honourable Justice Andrew Bell as the next Chief Justice of NSW.

Bell J – who is the current president of the NSW Court of Appeal – was praised by NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman MP for his “renowned intellect and leadership”, making him a “worthy successor” to Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC.

Bathurst CJ is set to retire from the Supreme Court on 5 March 2022.


“Justice Bell’s ascent to the pinnacle of the NSW justice system comes after remarkable academic achievements, including two university medals from Sydney University, a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, first place there in the (post-graduate) bachelor of civil law and a doctorate there,” A-G Speakman said.

“His honour began his legal career with two consecutive terms as a judge’s associate, including to then chief justice of Australia Sir Anthony Mason AC KBE QC. This early recognition of Justice Bell’s ability continued throughout his career.”

Bell J’s ascension to the role of Chief Justice left his current posting vacant. As such, A-G Speakman has named the Chief Judge in Equity, the Honourable Justice Julie Ward, as the new president of the NSW Court of Appeal.

Ward J was the first female solicitor appointed directly to the Supreme Court of NSW, and her appointment as the second-highest ranking judicial officer in the state “represents a deserved elevation for an outstanding lawyer”, A-G Speakman proclaimed.

“Justice Ward has been a trailblazer for both women and the solicitor branch of the profession throughout her career,” he said.

“Her honour’s service to the law began with a term as associate to the first chief justice of the Federal Court, Sir Nigel Bowen. Only six years after Justice Ward was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1982, she became the then youngest female lawyer to become a partner of Mallesons Stephen Jaques [now King & Wood Mallesons], one of Australia’s most prominent law firms.

“Justice Ward is a worthy successor to the outgoing president, Justice Andrew Bell, who the Governor today appointed as Chief Justice,” A-G Speakman said.

“NSW is fortunate to have such extraordinary lawyers willing to serve the people of this state through leading its highest court.”

The NSW A-G also paid tribute to Bathurst CJ, who has led the Supreme Court for over a decade.

“Chief Justice Bathurst has made an outstanding contribution to the law, both before and during his term in office. His honour deserves the gratitude of the people of NSW for his work which has in no small way helped to maintain public confidence in the justice system,” A-G Speakman said.

“I am confident that despite his impending retirement, Chief Justice Bathurst will make further significant contributions to the law in this state.”

Before being appointed president of the Court of Appeal in 2019, Bell J had a career at the bar spanning almost a quarter of a century. He took silk in 2006.

Ward J became the first female solicitor to be appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court in 2008, where her honour sat in the equity division before becoming a judge of appeal in 2012 and Chief Judge in Equity in 2017.

Arrangements for the commencement for the new Chief Justice and the new president will be made shortly, the Attorney-General’s Department said in a statement.