The United Islands Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in the United Islands of Georgeland and the highest court of appeal in the Georgeland legal system. The Supreme Court hears less than a hundred cases per year. Supreme Court cases are always either interpretation of the constitution or, more regularly, appeals from lower courts (state, local and appellate). The court's decisions are legally binding on all lower courts and jurisdictions. The Supreme Court bench is composed of seven justices, including the Chief Justice of Georgeland. The Supreme Court is housed in a large, postmodern building in Topstad on the banks of the Shannon River, which was formally opened in 1966.
Georgeland did not have a Supreme Court for the first few years of its existence as an independent nation. Before 1874, when Georgeland became nominally independent, its highest court as a British Colony was the British Privy Council, to which appeals from Georgeland's various courts could be launched. In 1874, the colonial government created a Superior Court, to have final jurisdiction over all local courts. However, the Superior Court had no constitutional role and was merely an administrative affair.
Georgeland's written Constitution included the idea of a Supreme Court from the very beginning. The model and basic function of the court was written to echo that of the United States Supreme Court. One of the Constitution's key authors, Edward Hollows, had attended a number of sessions of the U.S. Supreme Court and found it an 'admirable institution'. The powers of the Court were hotly debated during the formation of the Constitution, but general agreement was reached early on the Court's basic role - namely, to interpret the Constitution.
There was less agreement on the number of Supreme Court justices. Hollows and Pearce both wanted there to be five justices, while other influential figures, including Horrocks wanted nine, as the U.S. had. In the end, Hollows and Pearce successfully argued for there to be five justices. Another key point of contention was the power of the Parliament to appoint judges - Pearce adamantly opposed Parliament having any veto power, while Horrocks lobbied both for a veto and a mandatory retirement age. A compromise was eventually reached whereby no retirement age was set but the Parliament was required to confirm judges, rather than veto them, before 30 days elapsed.
After the Constitution was adopted the Superior Court remained, but legislation tabled in the first Parliament provided for the Superior Court to be replaced by the Supreme Court as soon as arrangements could be made to do so.
In 1894, the government of Robert Pearce appointed the first bench of the Supreme Court. Pearce wanted to appoint Hollows as one of the justices, but Hollows declined the appointment. The prominent jurist and politician Samuel Horrocks, who had played a significant role in the drafting of the Constitution but with whom Pearce had often sparred, was appointed as the first Chief Justice of Georgeland.
Appointments to the court are made by the President of Georgeland, acting on the advice of the government and the Cabinet. Justices must be confirmed by a majority vote in both chambers of Parliament within 30 days of the announcement of their appointment. Several Supreme Court appointments have failed to pass the senate throughout history; the last was Philip Dagwood in 1979. In practice, it is normal for the government to consult the opposition on Supreme Court appointments.
Though it rarely has the power to directly block Supreme Court appointments, the opposition can employ other tactics. A common tactic is to delay the appointment in committees, allowing the 30 day period to elapse. In 2006, the Conservative opposition used this tactic against contraversial appointment Colin Fitzpatrick, and threatened to use it against Nisreen Sharif after revelations she had written an academic paper in support of Hezbollah. Fitzpatrick's name was eventually withdrawn, but Sharif was appointed after the Conservatives allowed the appointment to stand.
Supreme Court justices serve until the age of 72, when they must retire as mandated by the Constitution. Justices must also possess legal qualifications and have taken the Bar exam.
The seven current Justices of the Court are:
- Hon. Justice Emily O'Connor
- Hon. Justice Robert Perry
- Hon. Justice Jordan Haslem
- Hon. Justice Paul McGuinness
- Hon. Justice Nisreen Sharif
- Hon. Justice Henry Cole