The Lesson

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Two High Court justices give a self-represented litigant a lesson in constitutional interpretation.

GAUDRON J: Now, would you like to read section 80 of the Constitution, Mr Wilson?

MR WILSON: Read section 80?

GAUDRON J: Yes, that is what - and see exactly what it relates to.

MR WILSON: I will read section 80 of the Constitution. It says:

The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury - - -

GAUDRON J: That is right, “against any law of the Commonwealth”. You are charged with contempt of court of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

MR WILSON: Which is part of the Commonwealth.

GAUDRON J: Well, it may be part of the Commonwealth, but it deals with - - -

MR WILSON: You cannot exclude New South Wales from the Commonwealth.

GAUDRON J: - - - it deals with a distinct area of judicial power. It involves a distinct area of judicial power.

CALLINAN J: Mr Wilson, both the Commonwealth - - -

MR WILSON: I am a bit hard of hearing and I ask you to speak louder.

CALLINAN J: Both the Commonwealth and the States in Australia can make laws.

MR WILSON: And any law of a State - - -

CALLINAN J: No, no, you just listen to me for a moment - - -

MR WILSON: - - - which is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth is invalid under section 109.

CALLINAN J: No, Mr Wilson, you are not understanding what I am saying. They each can have laws within their own areas of power and the States have power to make laws for the regulation of the State courts, and that is, in effect, what you are charged with, breaking a law made for the regulation of proceedings in the State courts.

*
Citation: Wilson v The Prothonotary (S127/1998) [1999] HCATrans 108 (16 April 1999)