Source: "The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and Its Judges
1754-1978" Nova Scotia Barrister's Society
In 1713 Nova Scotia was ceded to the
British Crown. In 1721 "a General Court or Court of Judicature" was
established at Annapolis Royal, consisting of the Governor and his Council.
This court continued to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction until
the establishment of a regular court in 1749 after the founding of Halifax.
A committee of the Council in 1749
reported that the judicial system of Virginia was the "most proper to
be observed in the Province." Two
courts were established:
The General Court composed of the Governor and Council, with civil, criminal and exchequer
jurisdiction and to hear appeals from the County Court.
A County Court composed of five
Justices of the Peace sitting monthly with jurisdiction over the whole
province, which then comprised one county. This court had jurisdiction
over common law matters except those punishable by death or outlawry.
The name was changed in 1752 to the Inferior Court of Common Pleas.
was also at this time a Court of General sessions similar to courts
of the same name in England.
1754: the Hon. Jonathan Belcher was appointed Chief Justice of Nova Scotia,
and from this time we find the General Court abolished and a new judiciary
erected in its place in which the Chief Justice for some years was
the sole judge.
1764: two Assistant Judges were
added to the court
1774: Circuits were established
and sittings were held at Halifax, Horton (King's), Annapolis and
1794: the Counties of Sydney, Lunenburg,
Queen's and Shelburne were added.
1820: County of Cape Breton added
1809: a third Assistant Judge
Until 1834 the presence of two judges
was necessary for the hearing of every case, both civil and criminal.
An Act passed in 1834 empowered any member of the court to preside and
determine all issues.
In 1841 the Inferior Court of Common Pleas was abolished and its jurisdiction
transferred to the Supreme Court, and one more judge (the Hon. Thomas
C. Haliburton) was added to the Supreme Court making a total of five.
Circuits were established requiring the court to sit regularly at Halifax
and sixteen other locations. In 1870 two judges were added making seven,
its number until 1969.
The County Courts of Nova Scotia were established in 1875 with a separate
court for each of the seven districts. All judges are federally appointed.
Since the Judicature Act of 1972 county court judges were also appointed
Local Judges of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court and as such
have extensive powers.
The Supreme Court was substantially reorganized and enlarged in 1966.
It was divided into a Trial Division, consisting of a Chief Justice
an five other judges, and an Appeal Division consisting of the Chief
Justice of Nova Scotia, who was Chief Justice of that Division, and
two other judges.
Later these courts became the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court
of Nova Scotia.
of 2001 The Court of Appeal consists of the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia
(who is also the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal) and seven other
judges. Semi-retired (supernumerary) judges may also form part of the
Court at any given time.
The Supreme Court comprises a Chief Justice, an Associate Chief Justice
and twenty-one justices. There are also six supernumerary or semi-retired
For information on a specific court click
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