First-ever judicial misconduct proceeding could see judges removed


State judges will vote Friday on new conduct and ethics guidelines to form a framework for the first-ever judicial misconduct complaint process here.

The 167 members of the Judicial Council have been reviewing the guidelines since they were distributed to them last month.

According to the procedure, a committee of judges and laypersons has the power to request the Minister of Justice to cause the government to consider whether to exercise its power, under Article 35.4 of the Constitution, to remove a judge for serious misconduct or incapacity.

Prepared by the council’s Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC), the guidelines will be submitted to Friday’s council meeting, which will be held remotely, for approval.

Based on principles such as judicial independence, impartiality and equal treatment of all who appear before the courts, the guidelines will advise judges on how they should conduct themselves and also form the framework for a judicial malpractice complaint procedure.

The Judicial Council Act 2019 requires this procedure to be operational by the end of June this year.

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The lack of guidelines was highlighted during the Golfgate controversy which saw Supreme Court Justice Séamus Woulfe come under heavy pressure from colleagues to resign over his involvement at a golf dinner in August 2020 during the pandemic.

The Supreme Court attempted to resolve the matter through an informal dispute resolution process, but this ran into a number of difficulties. Then-Chief Justice Frank Clarke eventually released correspondence revealing his personal view that Justice Woulfe should resign, but Woulfe refused, insisting his resignation was without merit. .

According to judicial sources, the new guidelines are based on seven international principles of judicial conduct known as the Bangalore Principles, endorsed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2003.

Although they do not have the status of rules or codes, the guidelines are intended to assist judges in making their own decisions regarding conduct and ethics, including, for example, whether to withdraw from court. hearing a case.

Judges must remove themselves from cases if they, or a close relative, have a financial interest in the outcome, or in cases where a judge, or a family member, owns shares in a company involved in a proceedings before this judge.


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