How to Complain about a Provincial Court Judge's Conduct.
The Legal profession as a whole is, in theory, suppose to act honourably, independently and competently. The profession is, for the most part, self-regulated. There are professional rules of conduct which govern the way in which the profession is suppose to conduct itself, whether it concerns a paralegal, lawyer, justice of the peace or a judge.
It isn’t surprising that so many lay people (non-lawyers) are bewildered by the entire court experience. The surroundings, the language used, the procedures followed are intimidating to those who go to court, especially for a minor matter, such as a trial in which to fight their ticket. There has been no attempt by the legal profession or the Government to demystify court proceedings or to make these proceedings less intimidating. The legalese alone (the legal language used inside the court room) is enough to intimidate and frustrate the participants.
Most individuals that participate in the “justice system” are not there because they choose to be. The system is known as an “adversarial system” where, inevitably, there are winners and losers. Those individuals that reluctantly participate in the justice system, come into contact with Judges, Justices of the Peace, Lawyers and/or Paralegals. Often, participants in the “justice system” walk away, after the final decision is made, feeling: that they haven’t had their expectations met, misunderstood, frustrated, confused and cheated.
If a Judge makes a legal error, then his/her decision can be appealed to a higher court. If a Judge does not commit a legal error, but you suspect that he/she was influenced, while making the decision, by something other than the evidence and facts presented and the law, there are avenues available to you, to submit a complaint.
In the Canadian Justice System, Judges are appointed by the Federal Government, Provincial Government (10 Provinces) or Territorial Government (3 Territories). In Provincial Court the Judge was Provincially/Territorially appointed, the complaint will be dealt with at that level, the complaint would be dealt with by the “New Brunswick Judicial Council”).
Judicial duties exclusively: 55. No judge shall, either directly or indirectly, for himself or others, engage in any occupation or business other than his or her judicial duties, but every judge shall devote himself or herself exclusively to those judicial duties.
Provincially appointed Judges, for the most part, must retire when they reach seventy years of age (70 years old.
How do I complain about a Provincially Appointed Judge?
Each Provincial Government appoints its own Judges. In order to become a judge, a lawyer must practice law full time for at least ten (10) years. Provincially appointed judges also must adhere to a high standard and a high level of professional conduct and must retire at the age of seventy (70 years old). The rules surrounding Provincial Judges, are not as restrictive as those rules applied to Federally appointed judges. Section 55 of the Judges Act (that applies to Federal Judges) speaks about these judges having to work exclusively as a Judge and nothing else.
Provincial Judges make mistakes and commit legal errors. When a legal error has occurred, their decision can be appealed to a higher court, where the appropriate remedy can be sought.
When a Provincial Judge commits judicial misconduct (either in the courtroom or in the public) or if you believe that someone other than the facts and evidence in the case influenced their decision, a complaint can be initiated against them.
Examples of what kind of behaviour can be complained about: racial bias, gender bias, neglect of duty or refusing to disclose a “conflict of interest” with one or more of the parties in a court case.
Making a Complaint: (This also process equally applies to complaints concerning Provincial Masters) The complaint must be in writing over your signature. It should include the date, time and place of the court hearing, the judges name, and the details of the misconduct, and whether it happened in a courtroom or in the public. Give as much information as is possible.
How are Complaints Processed:
Upon receipt of your complaint, a letter will be sent to you from the New Brunswick Council, acknowledging receipt of your complaint. A subcommittee of the Council will be struck (comprising of a judge and a community member) will investigate your complaint and make a recommendation to a larger review panel. This review panel (comprised of two (2) judges, a lawyer and another community member) will also carefully review your complaint prior to rendering a decision.
Decisions of the Council: