Possibilities for Further Reform of the Federal Judicial Discipline Process

Part 1: Introduction

The federal judicial discipline process provides a means for determining whether allegations of misconduct on the part of a federally-appointed judge are well-founded, and, if so, how best to remedy the misconduct with a view to preserving public confidence in the judiciary and the judicial system, including by removing the judge from office where appropriate. Allowing judicial misconduct to go unaddressed would seriously undermine public confidence in a branch of government with critical constitutional functions.

Recent investigations and inquiries into allegations of judicial misconduct have been marked by significant increases in costs and delays, which has prompted numerous calls for reform of the discipline process. In response to these calls, the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), which is responsible under the Judges ActFootnote 1  for managing the process and establishing many of its parameters, issued a discussion paper setting out options for possible process reform.Footnote 2 Consultations followed, including with members of the judiciary and the Bar, and the CJC made changes to the discipline process effective July 2015.

However, some of the process’s key parameters are set out in the Judges Act. As CJC officials have publicly stated, amendments to the Act will ultimately be needed in order to effectively address some of the sources of increased costs and delays. This paper thus raises additional options for reform with the goal of fostering discussion to help identify what legislative amendments and additional process changes may be needed in order to ensure that the process continues to fulfill its essential functions.

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