Canadian Court: Bill is considered a judge under investigation


A new law being passed by Congress could soon change the process of handling charges against judges — even if a Supreme Court judge is still on leave while the complaint is filed against him. he is considered.

Justice Minister David Lametti said if passed, Bill C-9 would amend the Judges Act to create a new process for the Judiciary Council of Canada to review allegations of misconduct insufficiently. serious to warrant the dismissal of the judge.

Diana Ebadi, Lametti’s press secretary, said in a written statement: “Prop. C-9 will strengthen the complaint-handling process for federally appointed judges and make it available to federal judges. Judicial Council of Canada new tools to tackle misconduct cases.

“Its aim is to improve transparency and accountability, while ensuring greater trust in the justice system.”

The bill, currently being considered by the Senate, would also clarify circumstances in which a judge could be removed and change how the council reports its recommendations to the minister.

The Judiciary Panel announced Monday that it is reviewing a complaint of alleged conduct by Supreme Court Justice Russell Brown, but it did not disclose the nature of the complaint.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner placed Brown on leave in early February pending a review.

The Judicial Council of Canada has jurisdiction over federally appointed judges and it receives, considers, and resolves complaints. It operates within reach of the executive and legislative branches of government.

“It’s a relatively complex and multi-stage process,” said Trevor Farrow, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Anyone can appeal, but it must be made in writing and sent to the judicial panel.

The board’s executive director reviews the complaint and any related information to determine if the complaint needs further review.

Complaints deemed trivial, annoying, made with inappropriate intent or without substance will not be considered further.

Complaints unrelated to conduct and “any other complaint not in the public interest and the administration of justice” are also not considered by the board.

If the complaint requires further review, it will move to the additional review stage.

“That concerns the other judge(s) and that certainly involves the panel taking a closer look at the complaint,” Farrow said.

The judge facing the complaint may be asked to undergo additional training or issue an apology.

Decisions can also be challenged along the way, creating delays in finding solutions.

But if the review panel determines that more scrutiny is needed, a full investigation will take place and recommend to the attorney general whether a judge should be removed.

That won’t happen under the new regime.

If Measure C-9 passes, it would remove the attorney general from the process and impose mandatory sanctions on judges when complaints of alleged misconduct are justified. That may include counseling, continuing education, and reprimand.

“We want judges to be able to make decisions in very complex, difficult cases without having to worry about the parties, the government getting their rights back,” Farrow said.

“They need independence to make fair and free decisions and they also need independence, not only in the decision-making process but also in the sanctioning process.”

Wagner told the Canadian Bar Association last month that the future law would handle claims “more efficiently and effectively”.

Farrow said any regime dealing with judicial complaints must strike a balance between protecting privacy and the independence of judges and transparency with the public.

“One of the concerns about the current process is that it’s not transparent enough and that it’s hard for the public to trust if they can’t see it,” he said.

“At the core of all of this is the trust in the judicial process as part of the core values ​​of our society.”

Measure C-9 would also require the judicial panel to publicly report on the number of complaints the board receives and how it is being handled.

Lametti’s office said he looked forward to testifying on the proposed legislation at an upcoming committee meeting and called on his Senate colleagues to work on its passage.

The bill has support from all sides.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 8, 2023.

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