Conduct of Judges
The information below has been reproduced with the permission
of the Canadian Judicial Council.
Every year Canada's federally appointed judges make
hundreds of thousands of decisions on matters that range from procedural
questions to the most basic interests of those appearing before them.
Judges can make mistakes. When one side or the other
in a legal dispute thinks that the judge has come to the wrong decision,
our system of justice allows that person to appeal the decision to a
higher court. Appeal courts can reverse or vary decisions of other judges.
The fact that an appeal court has overturned a judge's decision
does not mean that the judge's conduct was improper.
Whether judges are correct or incorrect in their decisions,
a high standard of personal conduct is expected of them. When someone
believes that a judge's behaviour is of serious concern, or that
a judge is not fit to be on the bench, here too our system of justice
provides for a remedy. In this case a complaint may be made to the Canadian
An important difference
The distinction between decisions and conduct is fundamental.
When a judge's decision is questioned an appeal to a higher court is the appropriate remedy -
When a judge's conduct is questioned a review of the conduct
by the Canadian Judicial Council is the appropriate remedy.
The complaints process
It is open to you to make a written complaint if you believe that a judge's conduct is improper, on or off the bench,
including conduct toward anyone involved in a case before that judge.
There are no required forms. You need not be represented by a lawyer. There are no prescribed deadlines. There is no cost to you.
The Council examines every complaint seriously, conscientiously, and as promptly as possible.
The process is open and accessible to everyone, whatever their knowledge
of the legal system, skill, status, position or financial resources.
The Council takes care to be fair to everyone involved. Given that judges
sometimes have to make unpopular decisions, the Council tries to establish
whether complaints about judges are well-founded.
Council by-laws provide for a complaint to be reviewed
first by the Chairperson or a Vice-Chairperson of the Judicial Conduct
Committee. He or she may forward a copy of the complaint to the judge
in question and to the judge's chief justice, requesting their
comments. The matter may also be referred to a Panel of Council members
for consideration. Further inquiries may be made by an independent lawyer.
If the complaint is considered sufficiently serious, a Panel may recommend
that the Council formally investigate it. Ultimately, the Council may
recommend to the Minister of Justice that a judge be removed from the
bench by Parliament. By law, a judge can be removed by reason
(a) age or infirmity,
(b) having been guilty of misconduct,
(c) having failed in the due execution of that office, or
(d) having been placed by his conduct or otherwise, in a position
incompatible with the due execution of that office. (Judges
Act, s. 65)