Complaints Against JudgesAttorney-General
The Chief Justice and the Attorney-General said today that a formalised complaints procedure has been agreed to deal with complaints about Judges.
"The intention is to better inform the public of the steps open to them if they wish to pursue a complaint against a Judge," they said.
Written complaints about a Judge should be directed to the relevant Head of Bench. Complaints must relate to the conduct of the Judge in question, not to the Judge's decision.
The Attorney-General has accepted the Judiciary's invitation to appoint an independent Lay Observer. Where a complaint is rejected by the Head of Bench, the complainant will be entitled to refer the matter to the Lay Observer, who may refer the complaint back to the Head of Bench for reconsideration if the complaint is considered to have validity.
In cases where a valid complaint is established, the Head of Bench and the Judge in question will settle on a remedy, which may include an apology or counselling or training for the Judge.
Serious cases which may constitute "incapacity" or "misbehaviour", and may therefore warrant the removal of a Judge, will be referred to the Attorney-General.
The Attorney-General will be empowered to call on a panel of retired Judges to consider the case. If the Attorney-General finds it necessary, he will put a resolution to Parliament requesting the Governor General remove the Judge.
Publicity material on the appointments and complaints procedures produced by the Ministry of Justice will be available to the public from the Judicial Appointments Unit and through the Courts.
PROCEDURE TO DEAL WITH COMPLAINTS
REGARDING MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIARY
Any person is entitled to lay a complaint regarding a member of the Judiciary. Complaints shall be in writing and should identify by name or description the person against whom the complaint is made.
Complaints should be forwarded to the Head of Bench as specified below:
The Chief Justice of New Zealand where the complaint relates to a High Court Judge or a Master of the High Court.
The President of the Court or Appeal where the complaint relates to a Court of Appeal Judge.
The Chief Judge of the Employment Court where the complaint relates to an Employment Court Judge.
The Chief District Court Judge where the complaint relates to a Judge of the District Court (including the Family Court, the Environment Court, the Youth Court) or a Community Magistrate, until a Chief Community Magistrate is appointed.
The Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court where the complaint relates to a Judge of the Maori Land Court.
The Chief Justice if the complaint relates to the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Employment Court or the Chief District Court Judge.
The Attorney-General if the complaint relates to the Chief Justice or in any other case.
Persons making complaints are advised the Head of Court may wish to forward a copy of the complaint to the Judge in question.
Any complaint shall be acknowledged promptly by the Head of Court. If it relates to a judicial decision made, where appropriate, the complainant should generally be informed of any rights of appeal, review or other legal proceedings. In all other cases the complaint will be dealt with promptly in accordance with the procedure set out below.
At the invitation of the judiciary the Attorney-General has appointed an independent lay person to act as Lay Observer for purposes of the complaints procedure.
Upon initial consideration a decision may be made:
that no further action is required, in which case the complainant will be advised accordingly. The response shall advise the complainant of his or her right to refer the matter to the Lay Observer, whose name and address will be provided. The Lay Observer shall be entitled to consider the complaint and decide whether or not to request the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Employment Court, the Chief District Court Judge, or the Attorney-General, as the case may be, to reconsider the complaint. The consideration of the complaint and any request to reconsider shall be in confidence. The complainant shall be informed in writing by the Lay Observer whether or not a request has been made to reconsider. The Judge subject to the complaint shall also be advised of a decision that no further action is required, and of any request by the Lay Observer to reconsider the decision on a complaint.
to pursue the matter further (in which case the complainant will be advised accordingly and the complaint referred to the Judge subject to the complaint for comment).
Subject to such further esquires as are thought appropriate the Lay Observer will preserve confidentiality in respect of any complaint.
Where it is decided to pursue the matter further, either as a result of initial consideration or reconsideration, any response from the Judge subject to the complaint will be considered. The Head of Bench may make such further esquires as are though appropriate.
If it is considered that the complaint has substance but is not sufficiently serious to contemplate removal, consideration shall be given to ways in which it can be deal with appropriately. Responses may include the following, which shall be reviewed in discussion of the complaint between the Head of Bench and the Judge subject to the complaint:
9.1 Noting that the complaint has merit and that the Judge has been notified accordingly;
9.2 Conveying an apology to the complainant;
9.3 Counselling and/or training and/or the provision of assistance to the Judge;
If after consideration of the response from the Judge the conclusion is reached, as a matter of first impression, that the complaint has no substance the complainant shall be advised accordingly and shall be given the address of the Lay Observer. If so requested by the complainant the Lay Observer shall be entitled to review the complaint, the response from the Judge and such other matters as may be relevant. The Lay Observer may request that the conclusion reached as a matter of first impression be reviewed. The Lay Observer shall inform the complainant whether or not a request has been made for reconsideration.
Parliament has established by law procedures for the removal of Judges in serious cases. The responsibility for setting these procedures in motion will be exercised by the Attorney-General who will in each case commission a panel of retired Judges to consider the available material and make recommendations. The Attorney-General will then consider those recommendations and decide whether to submit to the House of Representatives a resolution requesting the Governor-General to remove the Judge.
Complaints against members of staff of the Department for Courts should be forwarded to the Chief Executive, Department for Courts, PO Box 2750, Wellington. Complaints against members of staff of the Department of Labour (servicing the Employment Court) should be forwarded to the Secretary for Labour, PO Box 3705, Wellington. The addresses of other persons who whom complaints may be forwarded are:
Chief Justice of New Zealand
PO Box 1091
President of the Court of Appeal
PO Box 1606
Chief Judge of the Employment Court
PO Box 596
Chief District Court Judge
PO Box 10167
Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court
PO Box 2750