Sanctus – Chief Justice Patrick Grey, and Associate Justices Matthieu Patrice and Trevor Woodhouse today released a joint statement at the close of the Supreme Court’s term announcing they would all be stepping down from the Supreme Court. The move, which was unexpected, comes after some weeks of quiet criticism in the press of the idea that people should remain on the bench well into their eighties. Grey (82), Patrice (84), and Woodhouse (83) did not mention this as reasons for their retirement in the joint statement, instead saying the time has come to “pass the guardianship of the constitution to a new generation of jurists and scholars”.
Though the joint announcement said all three would be retiring, each Justice indicated they will be retiring at different times. Chief Justice Grey said he would be retiring once the Government nominates, and the Senate confirms, a replacement; Justice Patrice indicated he would be retiring on July 25th, the thirty-sixth anniversary of his appointment; Justice Woodhouse confirmed his retirement was effective immediately i.e. today.
Justice Patrice had received some negative attention in recent months after falling asleep a number of times during some hearings, which kickstarted a discussion in the media about whether or not he was still physically able for the job. In the statement today, Patrice did not reference those concerns, but did say he was looking forward to his “long overdue retirement”. Chief Justice Grey also confirmed to reporters present today that he had privately indicated to the government some months back that he would like to retire this year, so his announcement should not have come as a surprise to them.
With one-third of the seats of the Supreme Court up for grabs, Chancellor Ringrose will be eager to make his mark on the highest court in the land. He had previously said that he would nominate more women to the federal courts where possible, and this will be the first big test of his chancellorship. Unlike in other countries, the Supreme Court is not considered a politicised or partisan body, so it’s not expected opposition parties in the Senate will pose a challenge to his nominees, provided they are qualified.
Reacting to the announcement, and thanking the jurists for their service, Justice Secretary Xander Morgan said the government was “sad” to see the Justices retire, but “looked forward to presenting nominees to the Senate in due course”. It is understood that Morgan hopes to announce both Grey and Woodhouse’s replacements before the summer recess at the end of July, with Patrice’s replacement to come in the fall.
LOUISA SOUTER, Crime & Justice Correspondent