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Complaints about judges skyrocket

Complaints about judges are increasing, but most are dismissed, according to a newly released report.

user iconThe New Lawyer 21 October 2009 The Bar
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COMPLAINTS about judges are increasing, but most are dismissed, according to a newly released report. 

The New Zealand-based report, which came out last week, reveals that the number of complaints he dealt with about judges in the year to July had increased from 132 in the previous year to 189. In the 2006/07 year, the complaints were an even lower 103.  


This included 139 new complaints and 50 carried over from the previous year, when 101 new complaints were laid.

Of the 189 complaints, as well, 113 were dismissed. 9 were withdrawn, 4 were referred to Head of Bench and 63 were unfinalised at 31 July, the New Zealand Judicial Conduct Commissioner, Sir David Gascoigne, revealed in the report. 

None referred to a special judicial conduct panel, which is a process that can potentially result in judges being sacked or disciplined.

The number of complaints against High Court judges increased year on year from 19 to 44 and the Family Court from 13 to 27.

Complaints against District Court judges fell from 50 to 48, the report states.

Sir David said most complaints were dismissed because they questioned the legality or correctness of a judgment.

He said the proper avenue to deal with such concerns was by way of appeal or judicial review.

Other grounds for dismissal included complaints being frivolous or vexatious.

Four complaints were referred to the Head of Bench to deal with, compared to two in the previous year.

Grounds for complaint, aside from questioning a judge's decision, included rudeness, unfairness, inappropriate remarks, failure to listen, bias and predetermination.

The report did not include any detail on the nature of the complaints referred to the Heads of the Bench.

"In the view of the commissioner, none of the complaints that were dealt with raised issues of such gravity to justify such a recommendation," the report said.

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