Criminal and civil sittings of the New South Wales Supreme Court on circuit were held in Brisbane from 1850 to 1856. In 1857 a Resident Judge was appointed to Moreton Bay. At separation the only judge in Queensland was a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, exercising jurisdiction in what had previously been the District of Moreton Bay and was now the colony of Queensland.
"From December 10, 1859, official notice, appointments of court officers, and rules of court were gazetted under the title "Supreme Court of Queensland". Although the seal of the Moreton Bay Court continued in use until 1861, proceedings in Court were entitled or addressed to "The Supreme Court of Queensland". The Acts of 1861 and 1863 simply gave statutory effect to an established political and juridical fact. If name is important, the Supreme Court came into existence at Separation on December 10, 1859, to which the legislation of 1863 later assigned its beginnings."
The Supreme Court of Queensland was formerly established under the Supreme Court Constitution Amendment Act 1861. Under the provisions of the 1861 Act, the Supreme Court of Queensland was to be a court of record to be held at Brisbane. The full powers and legal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New South Wales were retrospectively transferred to the Supreme Court of Queensland under the Supreme Court Act 1863.
Until the introduction of the Supreme Court Act of 1874, the Brisbane Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts were required to deal with all judicial matters of their concern, that might arise within Queensland. The 1874 Act allowed for the creation of Supreme Court Districts, and the proclamation dated 24 Sep 1874 established the Northern District's boundaries. On Sep 25 of the same year, a Supreme Court Judge was appointed to reside at Bowen as Northern Judge.
This registry became known as the Supreme Court, Northern District, Bowen and the Brisbane Registry then became known as the Supreme Court, Southern District, Brisbane. The Supreme Court, Northern District Registry was transferred to Townsville in 1889 and the Supreme Court, Central District Registry was established in 1895 at Rockhampton. Under the "Supreme Court Act 1995", the Supreme Court, Far Northern District, Cairns was established with a "Far Northern" judge resident in Cairns appointed in October 1997,
The Supreme Court exercises broad original jurisdiction (ie right to hear cases at first instance) in major civil and criminal matters as well as appellate jurisdiction (ie the right to hear appeals from a lower court.
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has included powers to administer legislation and to hear cases relating to: equity, insolvency, liquidation and registration of companies, elections, naturalisation, registration of printing presses and types, registration of newspapers and trade marks, ecclesiastical law, matrimony, property, local government laws, trusts and trustees, and the enrolment of barristers and solicitors.
Under the Supreme Court Act 1867, the Supreme Court was constituted by three judges, one of whom was required to be the Chief Justice of Queensland. Under the Chief Justice and Supreme Court judges, was the office of the Registrar of the Court, a Curator of Intestate Estates, associates of the Chief Justice and Justices, a chief clerk, and other minor officials of the Court.
The Supreme Court can be presided over by no more than seven justices. A single judge, sitting in Brisbane, exercises original jurisdiction, whilst appellate jurisdiction is exercised by three or more justices. From 1991, the Supreme Court has consisted of two divisions, a Trial Division, and a Court of Appeal (formerly the Full Court and Court of Criminal Appeal). Under the Supreme Court of Queensland Act 1991 the court consists of the Chief Justice, a President of the Court of Appeal, other judges of appeal, a Senior Judge Administrator, and such judges as are appointed by the Governor in Council.
As the court is a court of record, all documents presented in court matters are required to be filed in the Supreme Court Registry. The Registrar and Prothonotary is the senior officer of the Registry who is responsible for control of all officers of the Court, as well as some quasi-judicial functions under various statutes, including the granting of probate and letters of administration.
The Central, Northern and Southern District Supreme Courts have separate registries, as do each of the localities in which the Circuit Courts have jurisdiction.
The Justice Department can be regarded as controlling agency of the Supreme Court in matters concerning the basic administrative requirements of the Court.
From 31 Mar 1922 to 19 Mar 1959 the Supreme Court took on some of the functions of the District Court which did not exist during this period.