ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Terence Higgins. Photo: Lannon Harley
The territory's top judge has called for the court system to become completely independent from the government.
Chief Justice Terence Higgins used an admission ceremony at the ACT Supreme Court on Friday to champion the establishment of a Courts Services Board, to autonomously manage the ACT court system.
The territory's system is currently administered by the ACT government.
Chief Justice Higgins, who retires next month after two decades on the bench, told the budding lawyers the ACT courts had freedom from interference, but had not yet been liberated from dependence on the government.
The government has resisted calls to appoint a fifth judge in the ACT to combat caseload problems and delays in finalising matters.
An independent system would mean the courts board could install a fifth judge without government permission.
Chief Justice Higgins said the Irish court system adopted an independent model in the 1990s after suffering similar problems, including delays, overworked judges, and inadequate court buildings.
The judge said the installation of an autonomous system in Ireland had been a success.
''I suggest that the introduction of self-administration for the courts [in the ACT] would result in improved responsibility, accountability and efficiency in court operations,'' he said. ''It would also encourage the courts to be more accountable and innovative in dealing with the public and with the government.
''This would improve the services offered by the courts, which is inevitably in the public's best interest.''
The ACT government previously rejected two ACT Auditor-General recommendations for a governance model that would provide greater administrative independence and public accountability.
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the government had not changed its stance since the 2010 report.
The government dismissed the advice because creating an independent courts administration would require duplicating public sector functions and would not provide value for money for the taxpayer, the spokeswoman said.
''The government's position remains that the scale of the ACT's courts and tribunals means that there is a significant public benefit in consolidating administration within the Justice and Community Safety Directorate [JACS],'' the spokeswoman said.
''In a small jurisdiction, minimising administrative costs has a significant impact on the resources available to provide services.
''The successful program to combine the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court registries was undertaken to minimise the costs of public administration.''
The spokeswoman said the current co-operation between JACS and the courts had created significant benefits over the past two years, including the blitz on the Supreme Court backlog and the review of case management procedures.