Staff Manual | Basic Court System

This bit will get a little dry. Try not to fall asleep, but I’ll keep it brief:


Under the Australian political and legal system, there are three separate sources of law that effect Tasmanians. The first is the Commonwealth parliament and related government regulations. The second is the State parliament and regulations. The third is the common law – the built-up decisions and principles of courts over centuries, still developing to this day.


State Law


Each State operates its own sovereign court system. These are entirely separate from the Commonwealth, and operate based on state legislation and common law. While most states have three levels of these (Magistrates, District/County courts, and Supreme Courts), Tasmania has two:


  • Magistrates Court

    • When dealing with criminal matters, referred to as the “Court of Petty Sessions”

  • Supreme Court of Tasmania.

The Magistrates Court deals with minor criminal matters, child protection cases, civil disputes under $50 000, residential tenancies arguments, drink driving, restricted licence applications, restraint order applications, etc.. The correct title is Magistrate and they are referred to as “Your Honour”. There are four permanent Magistrates Court registries (offices) in Tasmania, in Burnie, Devonport, Launceston and Hobart. Each is headed by the Clerk of Petty Sessions, who is the chief employee at each Registry. The Court staff statewide (excluding the Magistrates) are headed by the Administrator.


The Supreme Court has their own staff, own registries, and own practices. There are three Supreme Court Registries: Burnie, Launceston and Hobart. The correct title is “Justice”, which is often shorthanded as “J” (for instance, Smith J = Justice Smith). The Supreme Court deals with serious criminal matters, including any jury trial, major civil disputes, and is the body which appoints or removes lawyers from the profession. The staff are headed by the Registrar, and Launceston and Burnie offices headed by the “District Registrar”.


Federal Law


Federal law deals with a large number of areas, including industrial relations, tax, immigration and family law. The top court is the High Court of Australia, based in Canberra. This hears appeals from the highest state courts, and from other federal courts.


Beneath the High Court are two courts: the Federal Court, and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA). The Federal Court deals with taxation, corporations, intellectual property, immigration, etc.


The FCFCA deals with family law, including child support, divorce, property settlement and parenting. They have two registries in Tasmania – in Launceston and Hobart. This court also hires rooms from the state courts to visit Burnie once every 6 weeks or so.


             Child protection is a state court matter. Family law is a federal law matter.


Unlike the state courts, the federal courts (below the HCA) do most of their document filing online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal. You are (unfortunately) going to get very familiar with this website.