Complaints about ACT judges or magistrates

Any person can make a complaint to the ACT Judicial Council about either the behaviour or physical or mental capacity of a judge of the Supreme Court of the ACT or a magistrate of the ACT Magistrates Court. The Council may also receive and examine complaints referred to it by the ACT Attorney‑General.

The Council is made up of the ACT Chief Justice, the ACT Chief Magistrate, an appointed legal practitioner and an appointed member of the community. The Council was established on 1 February 2017. The role of the Council is set out in the Judicial Commissions Act 1994.

Complaints that the ACT Judicial Council can consider

The Judicial Council can consider complaints about the behaviour or capacity of a judge of the ACT Supreme Court or a magistrate of the ACT Magistrates Court.

For example, the Council can consider complaints about a judicial officer’s conduct in court, timeliness in providing judgements and physical and mental health issues affecting a judicial officer’s ability to perform their duties.

Complaints that cannot be considered by the ACT Judicial Council

The Judicial Council cannot take complaints about:

  • Presidential Members of the Australian Capital Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). These should be made to the ACT Attorney‑General and not the Council.
  • Non-Presidential Members of the Australian Capital Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). Information on making a complaint about Tribunal members is available here
  • Complaints about judges or magistrates that are not appointed to either the ACT Supreme Court or ACT Magistrates Court
  • Complaints about court staff rather than judges or magistrates. Further information regarding complaints of this type is available here

What if I disagree with a judgment?

The Council is not able to change decisions made by a judicial officer.

The Council is not a substitute for the appeals process. The Council’s role is to examine complaints about a judicial officer’s behaviour or capacity, not to examine where a judgement is correct.

If you believe a decision made by a judicial officer is wrong, you should talk to a legal practitioner about your appeal rights. A court of appeal is the appropriate avenue for determining whether a judicial officer made a legal error.

How do I make a complaint?

Anyone can make a complaint about an ACT judicial officer to the Judicial Council.

Complaints you must be in writing. Your complaint must include:

  • your name
  • your address
  • the name of the judicial officer
  • the court date and
  • a detailed description of the issue.

The Judicial Council is unable to accept anonymous complaints.

You may choose to use the following form to lodge your complaint: ACT Judicial Council – Complaint Form.

The form includes guidance that may be of assistance in making your complaint.

If you wish to make a complaint about more than one judicial officer please use a separate form for each complaint.

You can email your complaint to Principal.Officer@actjudicialcouncil.org.au

or post it to:

Principal Officer
ACT Judicial Council
GPO Box 1884
Canberra ACT 2601

You can call 02 6276 0193 for further information.

What happens after a complaint is made?

The Principal Officer will acknowledge your complaint in writing within five working days and will be your point of contact for your complaint.

The judicial officer who is the subject of the complaint and the head of their jurisdiction (the Chief Justice or Chief Magistrate) will be told about the complaint and any relevant details.

The Principal Officer will consider your complaint and may ask you or another person for more information.  The Council will then either:

  • dismiss the complaint
  • refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction; or
  • conduct a full examination of the complaint.

The Council will dismiss a complaint after the preliminary examination if:

  • the complaint is found to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith
  • the matter complained about happened too long ago
  • you had or have other options available for addressing your complaint including appeal or review rights
  • the person complained about is no longer a judicial officer; or
  • the Council decides that further consideration of the complaint is not necessary.

If a complaint proceeds to a full examination, and the complaint is substantiated, the Council will refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction and provide a report to the ACT Attorney‑General.

The Attorney-General may approve the establishment of a separate judicial commission for serious complaints that could lead to a recommendation to the ACT Legislative Assembly to dismiss a judicial officer.

What is the role of the Principal Officer?

The Principal Officer is the point of contact for complainants and facilitates communication between a complainant and the Judicial Council.

After a complaint is received the Principal Officer will conduct preliminary examinations and enquiries before making a recommendation to the Judicial Council. The Principal Officer will also contact the complainant about the progress of their complaint.

More Information

You can contact the Principal Officer for more information:

Principal Officer
ACT Judicial Council
GPO Box 1884
Canberra ACT 2601

Principal.Officer@actjudicialcouncil.org.au

Phone: 02 62760193