History made as High Court has majority-female bench after Jayne Jagot appointment

For the first time in Australian history, the highest court in the land will be dominated by female justices from the middle of October. 

Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the appointment of Justice Jayne Jagot to the High Court bench on Thursday, replacing the retiring Justice Patrick Keane.

Justice Jagot has been serving on the Federal Court since 2008, and before that was a judge of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court.

“Justice Jagot is the 56th Justice of the High Court, she is the seventh woman appointed to the court,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

“When she takes her place on the court, a majority of the justices of the High Court of Australia will be women for the first time since Federation.”

Susan Kiefel has served as chief justice of the High Court since 2017 — the first woman to do so. 

When Justice Jagot is sworn in, she will join the chief justice and fellow justices Michelle Gordon and Jacqueline Gleeson in hearing some of the most complex and serious legal cases and appeals in the country.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel.
Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was the first woman to be appointed to the position.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Mr Dreyfus was asked what role gender played in the appointment.

“This was an appointment of the best possible person to the High Court of Australia,” the attorney-general replied.

“The government’s very proud of the appointment that we are making today and announcing today, and I am certain that she is going to serve with distinction. 

“Justice Jagot is an eminent jurist, she brings tremendous experience — she was nominated by very, very many people that I consulted with.”

Law Council of Australia President Tass Liveris congratulated Justice Jagot and described her as a “dedicated and respected” judge.

“The Law Council recognises diversity as an essential feature in ensuring a responsive and well-informed judiciary,” he said.

“Over 50 per cent of our profession and population are female. Representation in our courts should reflect the community that they serve.”

Justice Jagot will replace Justice Patrick Keane, with the attorney-general thanking him for nine years of “distinguished service”.

A perennial gripe from some corners of the legal community, when it comes to High Court appointments, is that there has never been a justice appointed from the states of South Australia or Tasmania.

“I don’t think it should be looked at as ignoring South Australia,” Mr Dreyfus said

“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.”