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WA gets new Court of Appeal judge, 2 new Supreme Court justices, and 2 new District Court judges

West Australian Attorney-General John Quigley has, this past week, made numerous judicial appointments in the nation’s largest state.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 08 May 2023 The Bar
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Court of Appeal

Supreme Court judge the Honourable Justice Sam Vandongen has been appointed as a judge of the Court of Appeal, having served on the lower court since November of last year.

Admitted to practice in Western Australia 30 years ago, Vandongen J was a Crown prosecutor for the WA Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions from 1996 to 2004. His Honour became a silk in 2010.


The appointment takes effect on 22 May 2023 following the Honourable Justice Graeme Murphy’s retirement.

Speaking about the state’s newest Court of Appeal justice, A-G Quigley said that Vandongen J has “extensive experience conducting trials and participating in appeals in the WA Court of Appeal and the High Court of Australia”.

“Justice Vandongen is a respected legal practitioner and highly regarded Supreme Court judge.”

“I would also like to thank Justice Murphy for his many years of exemplary service to the Western Australian community and wish him well in his retirement,” he added.

Supreme Court

Elsewhere, District Court judges Natalie Whitby and Stephen Lemonis have been appointed to the state’s Supreme Court and will start their new positions in May and June, respectively.

Whitby J was admitted in 1996 and has previously acted as an instructing solicitor to senior counsel in Supreme, District and Federal Court trials, as well as having presided over numerous dispute mediations, case-managed civil actions and conducted public examinations pursuant to the Corporations Act during her 11 years as registrar.

Lemonis was admitted in 1989 and was a director of a law firm that specialises in commercial litigation and dispute resolution, and while in practice, he regularly appeared in the Supreme Court, the Federal Court of Australia and the District Court. His Honour was appointed to the District Court in 2019.

A-G Quigley said: “Judge Whitby has already served with distinction in the Supreme Court as a registrar, principal registrar and acting master. Judge Lemonis is recognised for his principal solicitor’s work in white-collar and corporate crime cases and regulatory investigations.

“Both have been involved in multiple complex commercial and other court actions and built impressive records over their careers.

“Judges Whitby and Lemonis are highly experienced and respected in the legal profession, making them eminently suitable for their appointments as Supreme Court judges.”

District Court

Finally, A-G Quigley has named state prosecutor Laura Christian SC and Magistrate Wendy Hughes as the newest judges of the District Court.

Ms Christian was admitted to practice in Western Australia in 1999 and to the High Court of Australia in 2011 and was appointed senior counsel in 2019. She is a senior consultant state prosecutor, having joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2006.

Magistrate Hughes was admitted to practice in 2007 and worked at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions from 2006 to 2009. She was managing solicitor of the criminal law unit and duty lawyer at the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and was appointed as a magistrate in 2019, presiding in the Children’s Court, where she will continue to serve as a District Court judge, for half the allocated time of the position.

According to the West Australian president of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, Belinda Wong, Ms Hughes is the first judge of Asian descent to be appointed to a superior court in Western Australia.

Mr Quigley said: “I congratulate Ms Christian and Ms Hughes on their appointment to the District Court of Western Australia.

“Ms Christian has made a significant contribution to the legal profession, providing training and mentoring, including the professional development program at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. She is highly regarded by the legal profession and is an accomplished prosecutor having managed many complex and challenging criminal cases.

“Ms Hughes has served with distinction since her appointment as a magistrate presiding in the Children’s Court. I would like to especially acknowledge that Ms Hughes is the first judge of Asian descent to be appointed to a superior court in Western Australia. She has significant experience in a broad range of jurisdictions and is an award-winning criminal lawyer and skilled advocate and arbitrator.

“Both Ms Christian and Ms Hughes will be strong assets at the District Court.”