Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Judging the Judges"

In an editorial today, former Sun Media counsel Alan Shanoff looks at the Canadian Judicial Council,  a body of senior Canadian judges designated by Part II of the federal Judges Act to investigate and rule upon complaints of misconduct against federally-appointed judges.

While Mr. Shanoff takes no issue with the CJC's regulatory decisions to date, he nonetheless questions the judges-only composition of the Council itself:

The number of complaints made against judges has increased from 145 in 1998-99 to 189 in 2007-08. There have been about 3,000 complaints since 1971. Remarkably, only seven complaints have resulted in public hearings and only four judges were deemed worthy of being brought before Parliament.

...The real issue for me is who should judge our judges.

While I agree with the CJC decisions I've read, I am uncomfortable in any situation where members of a group judge other members of the group. We are naturally skeptical about any self-regulating or self-investigating body.

It isn't enough for the CJC to consult with outside sources. It's time for some non-judicial members to sit with the CJC.

The CJC outlines its procedures and powers, generally, at its website:

...when the Council receives a complaint about a judge, a member of the Council’s Judicial Conduct Committee reviews the complaint and decides how the matter should be handled. Handling the complaint may range from asking the judge in question to respond to the complaint, to holding a full inquiry into the matter. It may result in the Inquiry Committee recommending to the Minister of Justice that the judge be removed from office.
The Council also maintains an online archive of its Inquiry Proceedings and Reports here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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