Complaints about judicial conduct are made to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner (the Commissioner) who will conduct an initial investigation and determine the next course of action which may include a recommendation to the Attorney-General to establish a Judicial Conduct Panel.

Anyone can complain about a Judge, but complaints must be about the conduct of a Judge, whether inside or outside court. The process cannot be used to challenge the legality or correctness of a Judge’s decision. In most cases a decision with which you do not agree can be reviewed by another judicial authority or there can be an appeal to a higher court.

Complaining about a Judge is a serious matter. While Parliament makes laws, Judges interpret and apply laws to the cases they deal with in court. Judges must be independent of the Government and be able to make decisions which are right in law and fairly arrived at, without being influenced by any other factors.

Recommending a Panel

The Commissioner may recommend to the Attorney-General that a Judicial Conduct Panel be appointed to inquire further into the complaint. This will happen if the Commissioner is of the opinion that an inquiry is necessary or justified and that the Judge's conduct may warrant the consideration of removal from office.

The job of the Panel is to inquire further into the conduct of the Judge. The Panel has the same powers as a Commission of Inquiry and is required to act according to the principles of natural justice.

Two of the Panel members will be drawn from the ranks of Judges or retired Judges, although one of the two can be a senior lawyer. The other member will be a person who is not a Judge, a retired Judge or a lawyer.

The Attorney-General must appoint a special counsel to present the case against the Judge. The Judge being complained about may appear at the hearing and be represented by a lawyer. The Panel may also give permission for other people to appear at the hearing and be represented by a lawyer.

Although the Act provides for Panel hearings to be held in public, part or all of a hearing may be held in private to protect your privacy, the Judge's privacy, or the public interest. The Panel also has the power to restrict publication of any documents that are part of the hearing, or any information about the hearing.

Once the hearing is over, the Panel reports to the Attorney-General on its:

  • findings of fact;
  • opinion as to whether the conduct justifies consideration of the removal and reasons for its conclusion.

Laws that cover the Judicial Conduct Panel

The Judicial Conduct Panel is covered by the:
Judicial Conduct Commissioner and Judicial Conduct Panel Act 2004(external link)

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