Governor’s Court 1814-1823

The Second Charter of Justice abolished the Civil Court of Judicature in the Colony of New South Wales and, by Letters Patent 4 February 1814, established three new civil courts, two in New South Wales and a third in Van Diemen’s Land. The Governor’s Court in New South Wales was comprised of a judge advocate and two other persons, appointed by the Governor; it could, if necessary, also sit with just the judge advocate and one of the Governor’s appointees.

The Court exercised full power and authority to hold plea of and to hear and determine in a summary way all pleas concerning lands, tenements, hereditaments and all interests. It considered all pleas of debt, account or other contracts, trespasses and all personal pleas whatsoever, where the sum in dispute or property value did not exceed £50. Although established in 1814, the Court did not convene until January 1816 owing to the illness and subsequent death of Judge Advocate Bent in November 1815.

Frederick Garling was one of two free solicitors sent to New South Wales to conduct cases before the Criminal Court, and the two new civil courts: the Supreme Court and the Governor’s Court. On 11 December 1815 Governor Macquarie appointed him as a magistrate and the following day commissioned him as Acting Judge Advocate, paving the way for the Governor’s Court to open in January 1816. Garling’s judicial appointment meant that there was now only one free solicitor, William Moore, who could conduct cases before the New South Wales courts, so the Acting Judge Advocate allowed emancipists solicitors to appear on behalf of clients in the Governor’s Court (also in the Criminal Court).

According to Governor Macquarie, Garling carried out his duties as deputy judge advocate ‘with zeal, impartiality and integrity’ until the arrival of Sir John Wylde on 5 October 1816 to assume the office of Judge Advocate in the Governor’s Court. Garling had used rules of court prepared by Ellis Bent, but Commissioner Thomas Bigge described these as ‘more complex than befitted the limited jurisdiction or the nature of the functions of the Governor’s Court’ which, in the main, consisted of the collection of debts. The new Judge Advocate simplified the rules as best he could to take local conditions into account. He also lowered the fees.

Wylde presided over the Governor’s Court until 1823 when it was abolished by Letters Patent pursuant to the New South Wales Act ( 4 Geo. IV, Act No. 96).

Macquarie University provides access to some of the judgments of the Governor’s Court at Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales 1788-1899.


About dashea2014

A Law Librarian with extensive experience in general legal and court libraries. Editor of the Australian Law Librarian for 4.5 years (2008-2012) and active member of Law Libraries Tasmania. Special topics - Tasmanian legislation and case law. A passion for maintaining access to print resources.
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