Supreme Court of New South Wales

Who's who in court

1. Judge

A judge presides over a court when two parties are in dispute. It is the duty of a judge to act as a referee in court and adjudicate on matters of law. Judges are appointed by the Governor.

Associate judges

Associate judges of the court are appointed by the Governor. Associate judges deal with interlocutory matters and hear trials of cases similar to those heard by judges.  However, an associate judge does not preside over criminal trials. All non- jury civil work which can be performed by a judge can, with the agreement of a judge, be heard by an associate judge.


Registrars are also appointed by the Governor. A registrar is empowered by the Supreme Court Rules to perform duties some of which were formerly undertaken by judges and masters.  They deal with defended applications in relation to security for costs, interrogatories, and the provision of particulars and subpoenas. Registrars also conduct conferences, mediations and assist judges in the management of cases.

2. Associate

An associate is the confidential secretary to the judge and is a clerk of the court in which the judge is presiding.

3. Tipstaff

A tipstaff provides support to the judge in procedural and organisational matters in court and may provide research and administrative support outside of court.

4. Legal practitioners

Both barristers and solicitors have the right to appear in court and conduct proceedings in court on behalf of their clients. Barristers are specialised advocates who stand up in court to present their client's case, produce evidence and examine and cross-examine witnesses. They argue points of law that are relevant to the case and make a final closing speech to 'sum up' the case in favour of their client. In a criminal case, the barrister representing the accused person is known as the barrister for the defence, while the barrister for the opposing side conducts the prosecution as the prosecuting barrister. Barristers wear a wig and gown in the Supreme Court and some, but not all other, courts.

Many solicitors act as advocates in court. If they brief a barrister, solicitors usually prepare the case by collecting documents and finding and interviewing people to give evidence. Solicitors are present in court to provide the link between client and barrister, and are on hand to give advice. Many solicitors practice as advocates but they do not wear a wig and gown in court.

Plaintiff and defendant

The person who brings an action against someone is called the plaintiff, while the person who must defend his or her actions is called the defendant.

5. Witness

A witness gives evidence to support the case in court. Both parties can call witnesses. Witnesses must stay outside of the courtroom until their name is called. When they are called they must take the witness stand and swear an oath or make an affirmation to tell the truth.

6. Court officer

The court officer organises the court lists and calls witnesses into the courtroom. They administer the oath or affirmation, ensure the public are seated in the right areas, pass documents from the bar table to the associate who passes them to the judge, jury or witnesses. They announce the arrival and departure of the judge or judges.

A court officer also looks after the jury room and the comfort of the jurors.

7. Court reporter

All court proceedings are recorded, either in shorthand or using a shorthand machine, or in audio or visual form. A transcript of the proceedings is an accurate written record of what has been said.

Corrective services officer

A corrective services officer is required to guard the accused in a criminal case and escort that person to and from the courtroom.


A jury is a panel of citizens selected at random from names on the electoral roll who consider the evidence and decide questions of fact. Their decision is called the verdict. Before a court case begins, they are sworn in. A criminal trial must involve a jury of 12 people. Civil cases may be heard by a judge alone or with a jury of four.


The furniture in a courtroom consists of a bench at which the judge sits. The legal representatives sit at the bar table. Members of the jury sit together, usually opposite the accused. In criminal cases, the accused was traditionally placed in a dock where they could be secured. Witnesses are called to the witness stand to give evidence.

Public gallery

Courts are generally open to the public who are permitted to watch most court cases. Courts which deal with sensitive matters, such as the Children's Court, are closed to the public.

Media gallery

The media may observe open court proceedings and report on proceedings. They sit in the Media Gallery. 

Last updated:

17 Aug 2023

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