Since 2003, Professor Andrew Lynch of the University of New South Wales has conducted annual research into the decisions of the High Court of Australia, including the rate at which the 7 Justices agree and disagree. His research released this year reveals that 2019 was the most divided year for the High Court of Australia in the 16 years of Professor Lynch’s study.
According to Professor Lynch’s research:
- The percentage of matters decided unanimously was at its lowest rate since 2012;
- No constitutional matter was decided unanimously;
- All members of the Court dissented at least once; and
- The most dissents came from the Court’s youngest member, Justice Edelman, with 8 of his 39 judgments in the minority – being the highest proportion of individual dissents in a single year since 2012.
While matters may not have been decided unanimously, most matters were decided through separate concurring opinions.
Contrary to the finding of Professor Lynch’s previous studies, in 2019 over 60% of the matters which came before the High Court were heard by the full bench (7 Justices), rather than a bench of 5 Justices which has been the trend over the life of the annual study.
When considered optimistically, the results of the research gives hope that the High Court is getting closer to the ultimate jurisprudential goal of a bench representing diverse interests and views of the Australian people.