Sometimes clients contact because they are unhappy with the way that a judge, or other judicial office-holder, has behaved towards them. These are what are known as complaints about personal conduct of judges.
They are distinct from complaints about points of law, which are about the procedural decisions or the substantive outcome of a legal dispute. Complaints about points of law must be dealt with via the legal appeals process, whereas complaints about conduct can be investigated separately.
The Judicial Complaints Investigations Office gives some examples of things that would warrant a judicial misconduct investigation:
- Bullying or harassment, for example of staff, colleagues, litigants, or legal representatives
- Using racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive language
- Loss of temper/rudeness/aggression, for example shouting
- Misusing judicial status, for example to try to influence another person or organisation for personal gain
- Misusing social media, for example posting offensive content, or content which could damage public confidence in judicial impartiality such as remarks about government policy
- Failure to report personal involvement in civil, criminal, or professional disciplinary proceedings
- Delay in issuing a judgment or order (usually considered to be a delay, without a reasonable excuse, of more than three months)
- Falling asleep in court
The following, by contrast, do not fall under misconduct investigations:
- A judge’s decision or order
- Bias in a judge’s decision-making
- A judge allowing one party to speak for longer than another
- A judge refusing to allow a witness to give evidence or admit certain documents
- A judge appearing to react more favourably to one person’s evidence than another’s
- A judge saying that he or she does not believe a person’s evidence, questioning a person’s credibility or criticising a person’s actions
- A judge making an error of law or procedure
- A judge expressing opinions about issues related to a case they are hearing
- The amount of costs or damages awarded by a judge
- A judge not reading documents before a hearing
- A judge refusing to transfer a case to a different judge or court
- A judge reserving a case to themselves
- A judge refusing to correspond with a party about a case
Any allegations of criminal behaviour should normally be raised with the police or other law enforcement, rather than as merely a judicial misconduct issue.
In England and Wales, the Judicial Complaints Investigations Office (JCIO) investigates misconduct complaints about:
- Court of Appeal judges
- High Court judges
- Crown Court judges
- County Court judges
- Family Court judges
- Tribunal Chamber Presidents
- Coroners and Assistant Coroners (not necessarily judges, but subject to the same disciplinary oversight)
Complaints about magistrates (lay justices) should be directed to the Local Advisory Committee.
Complaints about tribunal judges (except Chamber Presidents) should be directed to the relevant Chamber President.
Complaints to investigating bodies almost always have to be made within three months of the complained conduct occurring unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated for a longer gap.
Whilst we cannot assist you formally with making a complaint, we may be able to provide evidence in support, for example, if we witnessed the behaviour complained of.
The critical point to remember is that Judges are public servants, and you deserve to be treated with respect at all times. You need not suffer in silence, nor should improper behaviour go unpunished.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819