This chapter analyses the Australian judicature as a whole, as well as the individual courts that comprise it. It begins with a survey of the development of the common law conception of a court. The chapter next identifies four characteristics that have emerged as central to the definition of a court. These are: decisional independence and impartiality, the provision of procedural fairness, the dispensation of justice in open court, and the provision of reasons for decisions. Here, the evolution of the modern conception of a court reveals an apparent paradox from which the modern institution derives its strength, purpose, and identity: a sovereign's courts are independent of that sovereign.
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