District Courts were established in 1858 owing to complaints from the judiciary and the public in regard to the accumulation of civil cases in the Supreme Court and the poor administration of justice in country districts. The District Courts Act of 1858 conferred a civil jurisdiction only; however, a District Court judge could be appointed as Chairman of any Court of Quarter Sessions or General Sessions within the limit of the appointed judge's district. The District Court Act of 1973 abolished the District Courts and Courts of Quarter Sessions and established the District Court of New South Wales with a criminal and civil jurisdiction.

All District Court judges have three sets of robes comprising full ceremonial robes, robes worn when sitting in the criminal jurisdiction, and those worn when sitting in the civil jurisdiction. The scarlet sash (violet when worn with ceremonial robes) is called the casting hood, which is unique to judges of the District Court in New South Wales, who wear it over the left shoulder. English County Court judges, and judges elsewhere in Australia, wear the hood over their right shoulder.

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