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NSW’s top judge will hang up his robes after more than 11 years in the job.

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst handed his resignation to the Governor of NSW and Attorney General of NSW on Thursday, announcing his intention to retire on 5 March 2022.

The widely respected judge led the court through a dramatic period of change, working through the tenure of four Attorneys General, an ever-increasing caseload in the Supreme Court – with a notable rise in class actions – and the rapid uptake of technology by courts and remote hearings through the pandemic. He even presented a “pandemic special” YouTube address when swearing in a cohort of freshly admitted solicitors to NSW in August 2020.

The Chief Justice said his “enthusiasm for the role is undiminished”. However, “after more than a decade in office it is time for the Court to be reinvigorated and a new leader to be appointed to take the Court into the future”.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the opportunity to lead the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement published on Thursday evening.

“I wish to thank all judges, judicial staff and registry staff for the immense contribution all of them have made in ensuring the Court provides access to justice efficiently and fairly to all litigants, particularly due to the challenges from the pandemic over the last two years.

“I also thank the legal profession and the four NSW Attorneys General during my time as Chief Justice for their continuing support over that period.”

After more than a decade in office it is time for the Court to be reinvigorated and a new leader to be appointed to take the Court into the future.


President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, said the Chief Justice was “universally respected and has that rare mix of a brilliant intellect, common sense, humanity and good humour”.

“Our state has benefited enormously from his time leading the Supreme Court,” she said.

“On behalf of the state’s 36,000 solicitors, and all who come into contact with the NSW judicial system, I thank the Chief Justice for his years of service, including more than a decade as the highest-ranking judicial officer in this state.”

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman thanked the Chief Justice for his “exemplary service to the justice system, the state of NSW and the legal profession over a long career”.

“NSW has been fortunate to have a Chief Justice of his Honour’s exceptional abilities and personal qualities to head the nation-leading Supreme Court, particularly recently through a once in a century pandemic,” Speakman said.

“His Honour, supported by his hard-working fellow judges and very able Supreme Court staff, worked to keep the wheels of justice rolling, harnessing technology to ensure, where possible, proceedings continued in a COVID-safe manner.”

The Attorney General said his office would make an announcement about a candidate for a replacement Chief Justice in due course.

Chief Justice Bathurst wished his successor well, applying a dash of the warmth and charm he has become known among lawyers and colleagues for.

“I will be watching with interest from the sidelines, although I must confess, I hope that is not all I have to do in occupying my time.”