Infographic: Managing Complaints of Misconduct Against Judges – Proposed Changes to Legislation

Infographic: Managing Complaints of Misconduct Against Judges – Proposed Changes to Legislation

Infographic: Managing Complaints of Misconduct Against Judges – Proposed Changes to Legislation

Image of Infographic: Managing Complaints of Misconduct Against Judges – Proposed Changes to Legislation – Text Version

Managing Complaints of Misconduct against Judges-Proposed Changes to Legislation

On May 25, 2021, the Government of Canada introduced Bill S-5 that proposes changes to the Judges Act intended to restructure a judicial complaints process that was originally established 50 years ago. The changes would address shortcomings in the current process by providing for mandatory sanctions when a complaint of misconduct against a judge is justified, but would not warrant removal from the bench. The process for more serious complaints – where removal from the bench could be an outcome – would be amended and streamlined. A streamlined appeals process would save time and costs.

Public consultations in 2016 informed the development of the proposed changes, which also respect the constitutional principle of judicial independence.

This bill, along with recent legislation on continuing education for the judiciary, are focussed on modernizing this part of the Judges Act and ensuring confidence in our justice system.

Current processEstablished in 1971; amended in subsequent years Bill S-5: Proposed process
When complaint is received:
Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) Executive Director conducts initial screening Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) screening officer conducts initial screening
1 CJC member conducts initial review and either dismisses complaint, or refers it to Review Panel if removal may be warrantedIf misconduct is less serious, may negotiate with judge for appropriate remedy 1 CJC member conducts initial review and either dismisses complaint if wholly without merit or refers it to Review Panel
Review Panel:
  • conducts investigation
  • refers to Inquiry Committee if removal could be warranted
Review Panel membership:
  • 3 CJC members
  • 1 judge
  • 1 layperson
Review Panel:
  • may dismiss complaint or impose sanctions short of removal
  • must refer to Full Hearing Panel if complaint might warrant removal
Review Panel membership:
  • 1 CJC member
  • 1 judge
  • 1 layperson
Reduced Hearing Panel:
  • Judge can appeal Review Panel’s decision to the Reduced Hearing Panel, which can affirm, vary or overturn sanctions or refer to Full Hearing Panel if removal might be warranted
Reduced Hearing Panel membership:
  • 1 CJC member
  • 1 judge
  • 1 lawyer
Inquiry Committee: may recommend removal, but cannot recommend any other sanctions. Issues report to rest of CJC, which issues final report with recommendation on removal to Minister of Justice Inquiry committee membership: 3 or 5 members  
  • majority CJC judges; minority Justice Canada-designated lawyers.
 Rest of CJC: at least 17 CJC members with no prior involvement in considering the complaint.
Full Hearing Panel (if removal is possible):  
  • may find that judge’s removal is justified.
  • provides report and recommendation on removal of judge to Minister of Justice consistent with decisions by Appeal Panel and Supreme Court of Canada (if any)
Full Hearing Panel membership:
  • 2 CJC members
  • 1 judge
  • 1 lawyer
  • 1 layperson
Judicial Review of CJC’s report to Minister: Judge can appeal CJC’s recommendation through as many as three consecutive levels of Judicial Review Appeal Process:
  • Federal Court
  • Federal Court of Appeal
  • Supreme Court of Canada (with leave)
Appeal Panel:
  • any Hearing Panel decision can be appealed to Appeal Panel, and from there to the Supreme Court of Canada (with leave)
Appeal Panel membership:
  • 3 CJC members
  • 2 judges
Minister of Justice may initiate removal of judge. May respond publicly to report Minister of Justice may initiate removal of judge and must respond publicly to Full Hearing Panel report

The current process is set out for the most part in CJC policy instruments and bylaws; the proposed process would be set out in the Judges Act.


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