Coat of arms absence in new Supreme Courts

Donohue & Co  > Hearsay, Publications >  Coat of arms absence in new Supreme Courts

30 November 201

Recently there has been some disquiet expressed to me about the absence of a coat of arms on the wall in our new Supreme Court rooms.
One view is that the coat of arms is a sign of the judicial authority of the Court, and that we bow at the commencement and end of proceedings towards it for that reason. It has even been suggested that, in its absence, there should be no bowing.
Another view is that the coat of arms, while an important reminder of the role of the Court, is not required for the judicial process. When we bow, we are not bowing to the person of the judicial officer, nor are we bowing to the office that person holds. We are bowing to acknowledge the start of the judicial proceeding that the officer is commencing, and the officer is doing the same. We do so again at the end or adjournment of the proceeding. That is the relevance of the bow — to the proceeding, not to the person, office, courtroom, bench, nor coat of arms.
It happens from time to time that the Court is constituted by a hearing or part hearing outside of a court room — for example, a bed side hearing at a hospital, or, when evidence is given by phone, the place of the person phoning to give evidence becomes part of the courtroom during that phone call. The coat of arms is usually absent from those places, but the proceeding of the Court is still constituted and continues.
The Society has not taken any side in this discussion, and it may be that we do not need to. However, if you have a very strong view one way or the other, please write to me at
This weekend I will be attending the AGM of the Law Council of Australia, which is being held in Canberra. The LCA is the peak body of Law Societies and Bar Associations in Australia. As such, it has a very important and very effective role in lobbying Federal and State legislatures in relation to policy issues. The vast array of issues the LCA is involved in can be seen by referring to their website. Many of our own Society Committees have contributed to the development of those policies. As your President, I became a director of the LCA, and I also represent our Society as a Constituent Body of the LCA.
Lastly, it was encouraging this week to have a quick and positive response to my request to the ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay for our Property Law Committee to be more closely involved in the government’s deliberations about Electronic Conveyancing.
Chris Donohue President, ACT Law Society