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Justices of the High Court

There are seven Justices of the High Court of Australia.

Justices are appointed by the Federal Government, on advice to the Governor-General, under Section 72 of the Constitution.

The High Court was established in 1903 with three Justices. Two more were added in 1906, followed by another two in 1913. The number fell back to six between 1931 and 1946.

There have been a total of fifty-seven justices who have served since 1903. Thirty-seven justices (65%) have been appointed by non-Labor governments. Labor governments have appointed twenty justices (35%).

  • The governments of six Prime Ministers appointed 31 of the 57 justices: Menzies 8, Howard 6, Deakin 5, Fraser 5, Fisher 4, Hawke 3.
  • The governments of eleven prime ministers each appointed two justices: Hughes, Scullin, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Keating, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Morrison and Albanese.
  • The governments of four prime ministers each appointed one justice: Bruce, Lyons, Chifley and Turnbull.
  • The ten governments of prime ministers Barton, Watson, Reid, Cook, Page, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Holt and McEwen made no appointments to the High Court.
  • The longest-serving justice was Sir Edward McTiernan, appointed by the Scullin Labor government, who served for 45 years, 8 months and 23 days between 1930 and 1976, retiring when he was 84.
  • The oldest-serving justice was Sir George Rich, appointed by the Fisher Labor government, who served for 37 years and one month between 1913 and 1950, retiring when he was 87.
  • The shortest-serving justice was Albert Piddington, appointed by the Fisher Labor government, who served just for just one month in 1913 and never actually sat on the bench. Piddington resigned after controversy over his appointment.
  • The second shortest-serving justice was Sir Cyril Walsh, appointed by the Gorton Liberal government, who served for 3 years, 2 months and 9 days between 1969 and 1973. He is one of ten justices who died in office.
  • The longest-serving Chief Justice was Sir Garfield Barwick, appointed by the Menzies Liberal government, who served for 16 years, 9 months and 15 days between 1964 and 1981. The second longest-serving Chief Justice was Sir John Latham, appointed by the Lyons United Australia Party government, who served for 16 years, 5 months and 27 days between 1935 and 1952.
  • Eight Chief Justices first served as Justices of the High Court: Sir Isaac Isaacs, Frank Gavan Duffy, Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Harry Gibbs, Sir Anthony Mason, Sir Gerard Brennan, Susan Kiefel and Stephen Gageler.

Since the constitutional amendment of 1977, Justices are required to retire when they turn 70.

Knighthoods were bestowed upon 30 of the 35 justices appointed between 1903 and 1982. The last was Sir Daryl Dawson, in 1982. The Hawke government abolished imperial honours in the 1980s.

Nine of the fourteen Chief Justices are deceased. Four of Chief Justice Stephen Gageler’s predecessors are still living: Anthony Mason, Murray Gleeson, Robert French and Susan Kiefel.

Thirty-three of the fifty-seven justices are deceased. In addition to the current bench of seven, there are seventeen former justices still living. The oldest is 99-year-old former Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason, who was first appointed by the McMahon Liberal government in 1972.

November 7, 2023- UPDATE

The former Chief Justice of the High Court, Susan Kiefel, retired from the court on November 6, 2023. On August 22, Prime Minister Albanese and Attorney-General Dreyfus announced that the second-most senior justice, Stephen Gageler, would succeed Kiefel as the 14th Chief Justice since 1903.

Kiefel’s position on the court was taken by Robert Beech-Jones, a judge of the NSW Supreme Court since 2012. For the past two years, Beech-Jones has been the Chief Judge at Common Law and a judge of the NSW Court of Appeal.

The next High Court vacancy is likely to come in 2028 when Gageler will turn 70 and be constitutionally retired.

Five of the current justices are in their 50s and one is in his 40s. Assuming there are no deaths or early retirements, the next vacancy after Gageler will be in 2034 when Michelle Gordon turns 70. The court may be about to experience a long period of stability.

The tables below show the current court, Chief Justices and a complete list of all Justices since 1903. Each seat on the court has a number (1-7) which is shown for each occupant.

The Current Court

Justices of the Australian High Court – as of November 6, 2023
No. Name State Appointed by Seat Term Began Retires Birth Age
1.
Stephen Gageler CJ
NSW
Gillard (ALP)
Albanese (ALP)
2
09.10.2012
06.11.2023 (CJ)
04.07.2028
05.07.1958
66
2.
Michelle Gordon
VIC
Abbott (Lib)
1
09.06.2015
18.11.2034
19.11.1964
59
3.
James Edelman
WA
Turnbull (Lib)
5
30.01.2017
08.01.2044
09.01.1974
50
4.
Simon Steward
VIC
Morrison (Lib)
3
01.12.2020
08.01.2039
09.01.1969
55
5.
Jacqueline Gleeson
NSW
Morrison (Lib)
6
01.03.2021
05.03.2036
06.03.1966
58
6.
Jayne Jagot
NSW
Albanese (ALP)
7
17.10.2022
xx.xx.2035
xx.xx.1965
59
7.
Robert Beech-Jones
NSW/TAS
Albanese (ALP)
4
06.11.2023
xx.xx.2035
xx.xx.1965
59

 

Chief Justices

Chief Justices of the Australian High Court
No. Name State Appointed by Seat Term Began Term Ended Reason Birth Death Age
1.
(Sir) Samuel Griffith CJ
QLD
Deakin (Prot)
1
05.10.1903
17.10.1919
Retired
21.06.1845
09.08.1920
75
2.
(Sir) Adrian Knox CJ
NSW
Hughes (Nat)
1
18.10.1919
31.03.1930
Resigned
29.11.1863
27.04.1932
69
3.
(Sir) Isaac Isaacs CJ
VIC
Deakin (Prot)
Scullin (ALP)
4
12.10.1906
02.04.1930 (CJ)
21.01.1931
Resigned
06.08.1855
11.02.1948
92
4.
(Sir) Frank G. Duffy CJ
VIC
Fisher (ALP)
Scullin (ALP)
3
11.02.1913
22.01.1931 (CJ)
01.10.1935
Retired
29.02.1852
29.07.1936
84
5.
(Sir) John Latham CJ
VIC
Lyons (UAP)
3
11.10.1935
07.04.1952
Retired
26.08.1877
25.07.1964
86
6.
(Sir) Owen Dixon CJ
VIC
Bruce (Nat)
Menzies (Lib)
5
04.02.1929
18.04.1952 (CJ)
13.04.1964
Retired
28.04.1886
07.07.1972
86
7.
(Sir) Garfield Barwick CJ
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
5
27.04.1964
11.02.1981
Retired
22.06.1903
13.07.1997
94
8.
(Sir) Harry Gibbs CJ
QLD
Gorton (Lib)
Hawke (ALP)
7
04.08.1970
12.02.1981 (CJ)
05.02.1987
Retired
07.02.1917
25.06.2005
88
9.
(Sir) Anthony Mason CJ
NSW
McMahon (Lib)
Hawke (ALP)
2
07.08.1972
06.02.1987 (CJ)
20.04.1995
Retired
21.04.1925
99
10.
(Sir) Gerard Brennan CJ
QLD
Fraser (Lib)
Keating (ALP)
5
12.02.1981
21.04.1995 (CJ)
21.05.1998
Retired
22.05.1928
01.06.2022
94
11.
Murray Gleeson CJ
NSW
Howard (Lib)
5
22.05.1998
29.08.2008
Retired
30.08.1938
85
12.
Robert French CJ
WA
Rudd (ALP)
5
08.09.2008
29.01.2017
Resigned
19.03.1947
77
13.
Susan Kiefel CJ
QLD
Howard (Lib)
Turnbull (Lib)
4
04.09.2007
30.01.2017 (CJ)
01.11.2023
Resigned
17.01.1954
70
14.
Stephen Gageler CJ
NSW
Gillard (ALP)
Albanese (ALP)
2
09.10.2012
06.11.2023 (CJ)
05.07.1958
66

 

Justices – Complete List

Seat One – 7 Justices: Griffith, Knox, McTiernan, Aickin, Dawson, Hayne, Gordon.
Seat Two – 7 Justices: Barton, Starke, Fullagar, Owen, Mason, Gummow, Gageler.
Seat Three – 11 Justices: O’Connor, Duffy, Latham, Taylor, Walsh, Jacobs, Wilson, McHugh, Crennan, Nettle, Steward.
Seat Four – 8 Justices: Isaacs, Webb, Menzies, Murphy, Toohey, Callinan, Kiefel, Beech-Jones
Seat Five – 7 Justices: Higgins, Dixon, Barwick, Brennan, M.Gleeson, French, Edelman.
Seat Six – 9 Justices: Powers, Evatt, Williams, Windeyer, Stephen, Deane, Kirby, Bell, J.Gleeson.
Seat Seven – 8 Justices: Piddington, Rich, Kitto, Gibbs, Gaudron, Heydon, Keane, Jagot.

Justices of the Australian High Court – Complete List in Order of Appointment
No. Name State Appointed by Seat Term Began Term Ended Reason Birth Death Age
1.
(Sir) Samuel Griffith CJ
QLD
Deakin (Prot)
1
05.10.1903
17.10.1919
Retired
21.06.1845
09.08.1920
75
2.
(Sir) Edmund Barton
NSW
Deakin (Prot)
2
05.10.1903
07.01.1920
Died
18.01.1849
07.01.1920
70
3.
Richard E. O’Connor
NSW
Deakin (Prot)
3
05.10.1903
18.11.1912
Died
04.08.1851
18.11.1912
61
4.
(Sir) Isaac Isaacs CJ
VIC
Deakin (Prot)
Scullin (ALP)
4
12.10.1906
02.04.1930 (CJ)
21.01.1931
Resigned
06.08.1855
11.02.1948
92
5.
Henry B. Higgins
VIC
Deakin (Prot)
5
13.10.1906
13.01.1929
Died
30.06.1851
13.01.1929
77
6.
(Sir) Frank G. Duffy CJ
VIC
Fisher (ALP)
3
11.02.1913
22.01.1931 (CJ)
01.10.1935
Retired
29.02.1852
29.07.1936
84
7.
(Sir) Charles Powers
QLD
Fisher (ALP)
6
05.03.1913
22.07.1929
Resigned
03.03.1853
24.04.1939
86
8.
Albert B. Piddington
NSW
Fisher (ALP)
7
06.03.1913
05.04.1913
Resigned
09.09.1862
05.06.1945
82
9.
(Sir) George Rich
NSW
Fisher (ALP)
7
05.04.1913
05.05.1950
Resigned
03.05.1863
14.05.1956
93
10.
(Sir) Adrian Knox CJ
NSW
Hughes (Nat)
1
18.10.1919
31.03.1930
Resigned
29.11.1863
27.04.1932
69
11.
(Sir) Hayden Starke
VIC
Hughes (Nat)
2
05.02.1920
31.01.1950
Resigned
22.02.1871
14.05.1958
87
12.
(Sir) Owen Dixon CJ
VIC
Bruce (Nat)
Menzies (Lib)
5
04.02.1929
18.04.1952 (CJ)
13.04.1964
13.04.1964
Retired
28.04.1886
07.07.1972
86
13.
Herbert V. Evatt
NSW
Scullin (ALP)
6
19.12.1930
02.09.1940
Resigned
30.04.1894
02.11.1965
71
14.
(Sir) Edward McTiernan
NSW
Scullin (ALP)
1
20.12.1930
12.09.1976
Retired
16.02.1892
09.01.1990
97
15.
(Sir) John Latham CJ
VIC
Lyons (UAP)
3
11.10.1935
07.04.1952
Retired
26.08.1877
25.07.1964
86
16.
(Sir) Dudley Williams
NSW
Menzies (UAP)
6
15.10.1940
31.07.1958
Resigned
07.12.1889
08.01.1963
73
17.
(Sir) William Webb
QLD
Chifley (ALP)
4
16.05.1946
16.05.1958
Resigned
21.01.1887
11.08.1972
85
18.
(Sir) Willfred Fullagar
VIC
Menzies (Lib)
2
08.02.1950
09.07.1961
Died
16.11.1892
09.07.1961
68
19.
(Sir) Frank Kitto
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
7
10.05.1950
01.08.1970
Resigned
30.07.1903
15.02.1994
90
20.
(Sir) Alan Taylor
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
3
03.09.1952
03.08.1969
Died
25.11.1901
03.08.1969
67
21.
(Sir) Douglas Menzies
VIC
Menzies (Lib)
4
12.06.1958
29.11.1974
Died
07.09.1907
29.11.1974
67
22.
(Sir) Victor Windeyer
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
6
08.09.1958
29.02.1972
Retired
28.07.1900
23.11.1987
87
23.
(Sir) (William) Owen Dixon
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
2
22.09.1961
31.03.1972
Died
21.11.1899
31.03.1972
72
24.
(Sir) Garfield Barwick CJ
NSW
Menzies (Lib)
5
27.04.1964
11.02.1981
Retired
22.06.1903
13.07.1997
94
25.
(Sir) Cyril Walsh
NSW
Gorton (Lib)
3
20.09.1969
29.11.1973
Died
15.06.1909
29.11.1973
64
26.
(Sir) Harry Gibbs CJ
QLD
Gorton (Lib)
Hawke (ALP)
7
04.08.1970
12.02.1981 (CJ)
05.02.1987
Retired
07.02.1917
25.06.2005
88
27.
(Sir) Ninian Stephen
VIC
McMahon (Lib)
6
01.03.1972
11.05.1982
Resigned
15.06.1923
29.10.2017
94
28.
(Sir) Anthony Mason CJ
NSW
McMahon (Lib)
Hawke (ALP)
2
07.08.1972
06.02.1987 (CJ)
20.04.1995
Retired
21.04.1925
99
29.
(Sir) Kenneth Jacobs
NSW
Whitlam (ALP)
3
08.02.1974
06.04.1979
Resigned
05.10.1917
24.05.2015
97
30.
Lionel K. Murphy
NSW
Whitlam (ALP)
4
10.02.1975
21.10.1986
Died
30.08.1922
21.10.1986
64
31.
(Sir) Keith Aickin
VIC
Fraser (Lib)
1
20.09.1976
18.06.1982
Died
01.02.1916
18.06.1982
66
32.
(Sir) Ronald Wilson
WA
Fraser (Lib)
3
21.05.1979
13.02.1989
Resigned
23.08.1922
15.07.2005
82
33.
(Sir) Gerard Brennan CJ
QLD
Fraser (Lib)
Keating (ALP)
5
12.02.1981
21.04.1995 (CJ)
21.05.1998
Retired
22.05.1928
01.06.2022
94
34.
(Sir) William Deane
NSW
Fraser (Lib)
Keating (ALP)
6
25.06.1982
11.11.1995
Resigned
04.01.1931
93
35.
(Sir) Daryl Dawson
VIC
Fraser (Lib)
1
30.07.1982
15.08.1997
Resigned
12.12.1933
90
36.
John Toohey
WA
Hawke (ALP)
4
06.02.1987
02.02.1998
Resigned
04.03.1930
09.04.2015
85
37.
Mary Gaudron
NSW
Hawke (ALP)
7
06.02.1987
31.01.2003
Resigned
05.01.1943
81
38.
Michael McHugh
NSW
Hawke (ALP)
3
14.02.1989
01.11.2005
Retired
01.11.1935
88
39.
William Gummow
NSW
Keating (ALP)
2
21.04.1995
08.10.2012
Retired
09.10.1942
81
40.
Michael Kirby
NSW
Keating (ALP)
6
06.02.1996
02.02.2009
Resigned
18.03.1939
85
41.
Kenneth Hayne
VIC
Howard (Lib)
1
22.09.1997
05.06.2015
Retired
05.06.1945
79
42.
Ian Callinan
QLD
Howard (Lib)
4
03.02.1998
31.08.2007
Retired
01.09.1937
86
43.
Murray Gleeson CJ
NSW
Howard (Lib)
5
22.05.1998
29.08.2008
Retired
30.08.1938
85
44.
John Dyson Heydon
NSW
Howard (Lib)
7
01.02.2003
28.02.2013
Retired
01.03.1943
81
45.
Susan Crennan
VIC
Howard (Lib)
3
01.11.2005
02.02.2015
Resigned
01.07.1945
79
46.
Susan Kiefel CJ
QLD
Howard (Lib)
Turnbull (Lib)
4
04.09.2007
30.01.2017 (CJ)
01.11.2023
Resigned
17.01.1954
70
47.
Robert French CJ
WA
Rudd (ALP)
5
08.09.2008
29.01.2017
Resigned
19.03.1947
77
48.
Virginia Bell
NSW
Rudd (ALP)
6
03.02.2009
28.02.2021
Retired
07.03.1951
73
49.
Stephen Gageler
NSW
Gillard (ALP)
2
09.10.2012
06.11.2023 (CJ)
05.07.1958
66
50.
Patrick Keane
QLD
Gillard (ALP)
7
01.03.2013
17.10.2022
Retired
26.10.1952
71
51.
Geoffrey Nettle
VIC
Abbott (Lib)
3
03.02.2015
30.11.2020
Retired
02.12.1950
73
52.
Michelle Gordon
VIC
Abbott (Lib)
1
09.06.2015
19.11.1964
59
53.
James Edelman
WA
Turnbull (Lib)
5
30.01.2017
09.01.1974
50
54.
Simon Steward
VIC
Morrison (Lib)
3
01.12.2020
09.01.1969
55
55.
Jacqueline Gleeson
NSW
Morrison (Lib)
6
01.03.2021
06.03.1966
58
56.
Jayne Jagot
NSW
Albanese (ALP)
7
17.10.2022
xx.xx.1965
59
57.
Robert Beech-Jones
NSW/Tas
Albanese (ALP)
4
06.11.2023
xx.xx.1965
59

 

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