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Francis Forbes
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Sir Francis Forbes
Born 1784
Died November, 1841
Title Chief Justice
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Francis Forbes (artist unknown)

Sir Francis Forbes (1784 – 1841) was the first Chief Justice (judge) of New South Wales. Before he set up the court system in Australia, people were tried by legal tribunals. The town of Forbes, New South Wales was named after him.

Early life

Forbes was born in Bermuda in 1784. His grandfather, Dr. George Forbes had moved to the Bermudas after the Battle of Culloden. He went to London at the age of 19 to study law. He passed the exams and became a lawyer in 1812. He returned to Bermuda but went to back to England 3 years later. In 1816 he was made the first Chief Justice of Newfoundland. He lived in Canada until 1822. The government asked for his advice about setting up a proper legal system in Australia. He was asked to be the first Chief Justice of New South Wales in June 1823. Forbes was officially given the job in October 1823.

Chief Justice

Forbes was Chief Justice from 13th October 1823 to 1st July 1837. He arrived in Sydney in March 1824. He lived with the Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, while his house was being got ready for him. Forbes and Brisbane became great friends. He officially opened the new Supreme Court on May 17, 1824. He was also a member of the Legislative Council and was made President in August 1824. In December he was made a member of the Executive Council as well. These two extra positions were political jobs and put him into conflict with his job as a judge. As Chief Justice he had to be sure that new laws were in agreement with the laws of England. This gave him the power to veto (stop) any new law in Australia. This was not a problem while Brisbane was the Governor, but Forbes soon had problems with the new Governor, Sir Ralph Darling.

The Francis Forbes Society [1] is a group set up to study Australian legal history.

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