Two new judges for Canberra’s courts have been welcomed by the city’s legal community and are expected to help take the ACT’s higher court to “the next level”.
Belinda Baker and Geoffrey Kennett have been announced as the new resident judges to be appointed to the ACT Supreme Court, where they will join new ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum who was sworn in earlier this week.
“Mr Kennett and Ms Baker are both known for their huge intellects, their astute legal analysis and their prodigious capacity for hard work,” Chief Justice McCallum said.
“With our full complement of six judges, the court is well placed to take on the challenges ahead.”
Ms Baker, who has legal experience spanning more than 20 years, has particular expertise in criminal law.
She is currently the Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions and has appeared in more than 200 criminal appeals since 2016, including in the High Court.
Mr Kennett has more than 30 years of legal experience and has focused on civil and administrative law.
He worked in Canberra from 1985 to 1998 and is currently the Chair of the Administrative Law Committee of the Law Council of Australia as well as a member of its Constitutional Law Committee.
Mr Kennett told journalists covering the announcement “a media event for new judges is not something that you see in Sydney”, which is where he has been practicing for the past 23 years. He said it was great to be back in Canberra, the city where he grew up.
Ms Baker said she was honoured to be appointed to the court and was grateful to work with Chief Justice McCallum, whom she described as an “inspiring jurist”.
“The ACT Supreme Court is unique in that its jurisdiction encompasses first instance and appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters,” Ms Baker said.
“This broad jurisdiction enables the Supreme Court to fully understand the needs of the ACT community and to deliver justice that well serves those changing needs.”
Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said there were about 15 to 20 applications for the positions and, following the recent appointment of Chief Justice McCallum as well as the installation of a new jury management system, he though the ACT’s courts were in “very good shape” for 2022.
“The feedback we’ve had around these appointments from many in the legal community is this will take the ACT Supreme Court particularly to the next level and I’m very pleased to get that feedback from our legal community,” he said.
“I think we are well positioned to have a strong justice system here in the ACT and also to think about how we might deal with some of the challenges we face in the justice system, particularly the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Also, in February, senior member of the ACT Bar Ken Archer was announced as the first dedicated coroner in the Territory while Jane Campbell, who has been a special magistrate since 2021, was appointed a magistrate.
Mr Kennett will begin his appointment this month and will fill the vacancy left by Justice John Burns, who retired from Canberra last August after serving more than 30 years in its courts.
Ms Baker starts in December 2022 and will take over from Justice Michael Elkaim when he retires that month. He has served as a judge of the Supreme Court since 2016.