The majority of judges on Australia’s high court will be women for the first time in history after the appointment of justice Jayne Jagot to the bench.
On Thursday the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, announced the appointment of the federal court judge as the 56th justice of the high court and seventh woman appointed to the court.
On 17 October, Jagot will replace justice Patrick Keane, who was appointed in March 2013 but is approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
In a statement, Dreyfus and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, described Jagot as an “outstanding lawyer and an eminent judge”, congratulating her on a “well-deserved appointment”.
Before her appointment to the federal court in 2008, Jagot was a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, a barrister, a judge of the NSW land and environment court, deputy president of the copyright tribunal and additional judge of the ACT supreme court.
Jagot is 57, giving her a generous tenure of up to 13 years on the court.
Although Jagot is highly respected and was also considered for a high court appointment by the former attorney general Christian Porter, legal experts believe the latest in a slew of appointments from the federal court has left the high court lacking in judges with a background in criminal law.
Jagot is a great appointment but who is left on the HCA bench with any serious criminal law experience? Especially before a jury?
— Gray Connolly (@GrayConnolly) September 28, 2022
As a Sydney-based judge, Jagot’s appointment also does not address a historical lack of representation from smaller states, particularly South Australia.
Dreyfus told reporters in Canberra the appointment shouldn’t be “looked at as ignoring South Australia”.
“I can only assure the people of Australia that this appointment is of the best possible person for this position to the high court of Australia.”
Asked whether gender played a role in the appointment, Dreyfus reiterated that Jagot was “the best possible person”.
“The government is very proud of the appointment that we are making today … and I am certain that she is going to serve with distinction.”
“Justice Jagot is an eminent jurist and brings tremendous experience, and was nominated by very, very many people that I consulted with.”
Dreyfus consulted all state and territory attorneys general and their shadows, the heads of the federal courts and state and territory supreme courts, state and territory bar associations and law societies, National Legal Aid, Australian Women Lawyers, the National Association of Community Legal Centres and deans of law schools.
The chief justice, Susan Kiefel, reaches the mandatory retirement age in January 2024, creating a second high court vacancy in the first term of the Albanese government.
Dreyfus did not comment on whether women would remain in the majority on the bench after Kiefel’s retirement.