Supreme Court of South Australia Adelaide Building faces Victoria Square and is the superior court for the Australian State of South Australia. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the state in civil matters, and hears the most serious criminal matters. The Supreme Court is the highest South Australian court in the Australian court hierarchy. It is constituted of a Chief Justice and 12 other judges.
The creation of a Supreme Court was unique in the case of South Australia. In South Australia the notion of a Supreme Court formed part of Edward Wakefield’s theory of colonization, in contrast to the other Australian colonies, which established their courts long after the settlement of the colony.
The court was established by Letters Patent on 2 January 1837, five days after the colony was founded. It was endowed with all the common law and probate jurisdiction of the courts of Westminster. The first sessions were not held until May of that year, presided over by Sir John Jeffcott, the first judge of the court.After Sir John Jeffcott’s death in December 1837, Henry Jickling was appointed as an acting judge. Although appointed as a caretaker judge, Jickling was responsible for two important issues: he codified the testamentary causes jurisdiction of the court and admitted the first practitioners of the Supreme Court in March 1838.
Justice Jeffcott’s replacement on the Court was Sir Charles Cooper. Reports of ill health prompted Governor Young to ask for the appointment of a second judge, as a result Justice Crawford was appointed. Justice Crawford was the first justice to wear a wig in court. Crawford died after only two years on the bench.Crawford was replaced by Justice Boothby. Boothby was a controversial judge who did not believe in the power of the colonial parliaments to enact laws. He arguably started the first constitutional crisis in Australian history when he ruled that the South Australian Constitution of 1856 was invalid, causing the Imperial Parliament to pass the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865.