As a legal practitioner, having a complaint made against you can have a potentially devastating impact on your ability to practise, not to mention your own personal health and wellbeing. You may find that your emotions rage, with a mix of anger, fear and guilt swirling around you.
While complaints have the potential to cause some sleepless nights, it is important that practitioners face the issues that arise head-on. Remaining calm and addressing the complaint, usually with the help of a specialised claims solicitor, can help you make it through to the other side having learned from the experience.
Complaints against the Judiciary
Judges are accountable through the public nature of their work, the requirement that they give reasons for their decisions and the scrutiny of their decisions on appeal.
The Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Act 2012 (Cth) amended legislation to assist the Chief Justice/Chief Judge to deal with complaints about judges, to provide immunity from suit for the Chief Justice/Chief Judge as well as participants assisting the Chief Justice/Chief Judge in the complaints handling process, and to exclude from the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) documents of a court arising in the context of consideration and handling of a complaint about a judge.
The complaints procedure does not, and cannot, provide a mechanism for disciplining a judge. It does, however, offer a process by which complaints by a member of the public about judicial conduct can be brought to the attention of the Chief Justice/Chief Judge and where appropriate the judge concerned, and it provides an opportunity for a complaint to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (Courts) have been focused on developing appropriate and responsive policies, as well as implementing regular judicial education and training sessions, to ensure the Courts’ foster a culture of respect, fairness and inclusivity. Here are copies of the Courts’ Complaints Policy, Judicial Workplace Conduct Policy and Judicial Complaints Procedure.