The State of the Judicature: A Statistical Profile of Australian Courts and Judges
(2013) 35 Sydney Law Review, Forthcoming
32 Pages Posted: 5 May 2013
Date Written: May 4, 2013
In 1977 Chief Justice Barwick gave one of the first statistical snapshots of the Australian courts as a ‘judicial system’ in his inaugural ‘State of the Australian Judicature’ address. Since then, there has been no detailed statistical examination of the characteristics of the Australian judicature, due in part to the paucity of reliable data. After the passage of 36 years, this article provides a second examination of Australian courts and judges using data from the Productivity Commission and other sources. The article describes and analyses key attributes and observable trends in the judicature from the perspectives of both the supply side (judicial labour) and the demand side (court lodgements). This is done across six domains — size and growth; tiers of the court hierarchy; state versus federal systems; civil versus criminal subject matter; regional dynamics; and gender composition. What emerges is a complex picture of a dynamic judicial system that does not always comport with common assumptions about its structure and organisation. There is a critical need for the collection of additional data on the judicature, and for research that provides a better understanding of the forces that will shape the evolution of the Australian judicial system over the coming decades.
Keywords: Australia, courts, judges, judicial officers, judicature, size, growth, state courts, federal courts, court hierarchy, magistrates courts, district courts, supreme courts, civil cases, criminal cases, gender composition, women in judiciary, regional differences, case lodgements, case lodgments
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