Attorney General Appoints Five New District Court Judges For New South Wales

Attorney General Appoints Five New District Court Judges For New South Wales

New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman

Five New District Court Judges For New South Wales

Victor P Taffa

Five new judges have been appointed to the District Court of New South Wales, including two judicial officers from other jurisdictions, an internationally experienced criminal barrister, an accomplished prosecutor and a senior Sydney litigator, Attorney General Mark Speakman announced today.

South Australian District Court judge Susanne Cole, Federal Circuit Court judge Justin Smith SC and barristers Graham Turnbull, Alister Abadee and Sharon Harris will be sworn in as District Court judges in New South Wales in February next year.

Judge Cole will serve as a Deputy President of NCAT and the head of its Administrative and Equal Opportunity and Occupational Divisions, while Judge Smith, Mr. Turnbull, Mr. Abadee and Ms. Harris will sit on the bench of the District Court.

“It is a coup for New South Wales to secure the services of two highly-respected judges from other Australian courts and it further demonstrates the high esteem in which our justice system is held across the nation.” Attorney General Speakman said.

“District Court of New South Wales will also benefit from the considerable expertise of Mr. Turnbull who has worked extensively in criminal law both in Australia and overseas, Mr. Abadee who has been a leader in civil litigation for many years and Ms. Harris, a prosecutor with extensive experience, particularly in the difficult field of child sex abuse.”

Judge Cole will join NCAT on 28 February 2019. Judge Smith, Mr. Abadee and Mr. Turnbull will take their positions on the District Court bench on 11, 18 and 21 February 2019 respectively. The trio replaces Judge David Frearson, Judge Peter Berman and Judge Audrey Balla who are retiring and Judge Paul Lakatos who has been appointed as President of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Judges Berman and Balla will be commence as Acting Judges of the District Court on 29 January.


Biographical Details

Alister Abadee

Mr. Abadee has been a litigator for over 23 years, including 18 years as a barrister. He has specialised in professional liability, co-authoring a leading text on the subject, and has worked extensively in commercial litigation.

He has most frequently appeared in the Supreme Court, but also in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Federal Court and District Court. He recently represented consumers in a class action against a travel company after flooding in Europe disrupted their holiday.

Mr. Abadee has also served as a Navy Reservist for nearly two decades and was awarded the Australian Defence Medal. Through his service as a Defence Force lawyer, he gained experience in quasi-criminal law and acted as prosecuting officer and as defending officer in Defence Force disciplinary trials and courts-martial. Mr. Abadee performed the role of Counsel Representing in the Board of Inquiry into the fatal Sea King helicopter crash on the Indonesian island of Nias in 2005.

Judge Susanne Cole

Judge Cole has served as a Judge of South Australia’s District Court and Environment Resources and Development (ERD) Court since 2002.

For the past 8 years, she has been Senior Judge of the ERD Court which has an extensive jurisdiction in relation to administrative systems that regulate town planning, environmental licensing, aspects of mining, water allocation and native vegetation management.

She was the Deputy President of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal from 2014 to 2017 and the Deputy President of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal of South Australia from 2002 until 2017, when it ceased to exist.

Earlier in her career, Judge Cole was an associate at a South Australian law firm and worked for the Crown Solicitor’s Office in that state.

Sharon Harris

Ms. Harris has prosecuted hundreds of complex criminal proceedings, including the Supreme Court trials of Ron Medich who was jailed for a minimum of 30 years for the murder of Michael McGurk, and as junior counsel in the matter of Roger Dean who received 11 life sentences for the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

Ms. Harris was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1993, and after two years as a solicitor at a criminal law firm, joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (NSW) in 1996 and was appointed as a crown prosecutor in 2014.

She has prosecuted a vast number of jury trials in the District Court since 2006 including matters relating to manslaughter, drug trafficking, sexual assault, dangerous driving causing death and serious fraud cases.

Ms. Harris has also been part of the specialist Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot Program in the Downing Centre District Court, prosecuting child sexual offence trials.

Judge Justin Smith SC

Judge Smith’s legal career has spanned more than a quarter of a century, including 17 years as a barrister and three years on the bench of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

As a judge, he has heard and determined around 300 cases per year on a range of matters including bankruptcy, administrative law, employment law, migration, trade practices, intellectual property and admiralty.

He has run trials which have predominantly relied on electronic court files and has been a member of the Judicial Steering Committee of the Federal Courts’ Digital Court.

Prior to being appointed to the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Smith practised as a barrister and was appointed as a Senior Counsel in 2014. While his primary areas of practice were administrative and migration law, he also has experience in criminal law and other aspects of civil law. He appeared on many occasions in appeals before the Full Court of the Federal Court and the High Court.

Graham Turnbull SC

Mr. Turnbull began his legal career as a solicitor in Raymond Terrace in 1984 and spent four years at Legal Aid NSW in Sydney before going to the Special Casework Division of the Crown Prosecution Service in London. He has practiced exclusively at the private bar since 1990 initially in London and in New South Wales from 1994. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 2007.

Mr. Turnbull has prosecuted and defended serious criminal charges in trials throughout New South Wales as well as in other states and territories. He has also appeared in matters before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Mental Health Review Tribunal, the Coroner’s Court and the Children’s Court.

He contributed to research into courtroom technology as a member of the international Court of the Future Network.



NSW               New South Wales

NCAT             NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal