Tomorrow, 13 June 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the Court of Appeal.
The establishment of the Court of Appeal in 1995 gave Victoria for the first time a permanent appellate court. After a ceremonial sitting on 8 June 1995, the first appeal was heard on 13 June 1995, which is honoured as the Court’s anniversary.
The Court of Appeal is part of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the highest court in the State. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Supreme Court (Trial Division), the County Court, the Magistrates’ Court and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell said that the establishment of the Court was a milestone in Victoria’s legal history.
The inaugural President was Justice John Winneke, who held office until 2005 when he was succeeded by Justice Maxwell. Originally comprising nine permanent judges (including the Chief Justice), the Court now has 13 permanent members.
In 2018-19, the Court of Appeal disposed of 450 appeals. Roughly 60% of the work of the Court comprises criminal appeals, of which the majority are appeals against sentence.
“The Court plays a vital role in ensuring that jury trials are conducted fairly and according to law, and in maintaining appropriate sentencing standards within the parameters set by Parliament,” Justice Maxwell said.
“The balance of the Court’s work is extremely varied, ranging from personal injuries and defamation through planning and environment law to commercial and public law.
“This anniversary year gives us the opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge the efforts of all those who have contributed to the work of the Court since its establishment.
“We build on their achievements as we strive constantly to improve the quality and timeliness of appellate decisions and the accessibility of the Court to all Victorians.
“We had planned to mark this anniversary year by taking the Court of Appeal to the regions for no fewer than six country circuits. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) has prevented us from doing so, it has had unexpected benefits.
“The necessity to hold remote hearings has accelerated our technological capability beyond all expectations and this will have long-lasting benefits for all court users. All three Court of Appeal courtrooms are now fully equipped e-courts.”