Judges are expected to maintain high standards of personal conduct and behaviour, both in court and in public. Anyone who is unhappy with the conduct of a Provincial Court judge can make a formal complaint to the Saskatchewan Judicial Council. However, it’s important to know first that there is a difference between a judge’s conduct and a judge's decision.
If someone is unhappy with a Provincial Court judge's decision and believes the judge reached the wrong decision in their court case, that person may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court. He or she should consult a lawyer to discuss legal options. The Judicial Council is not a court and cannot review a judge's decision. Further, just because a higher court overturns a judge's decision, it does not mean that the judge's conduct was improper.
Saskatchewan Judicial Council
If someone is unhappy with a Provincial Court judge's conduct or behaviour, or believes that a judge is not fit to be on the bench, he or she may make a complaint to the Saskatchewan Judicial Council. If the judge is federally appointed (Court of Appeal and Queen's Bench judges), the complaint should be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council.
Judicial Council Authority
The Saskatchewan Judicial Council has the power to review and, where necessary, investigate complaints of incapacity or misconduct involving Provincial Court judges. Where appropriate, the Council may warn, reprimand, express disapproval, suspend or recommend to the Minister of Justice that a judge be removed from office.
Every year, the Council receives many complaints that it cannot deal with. The Council cannot:
- overturn (or change) a judge's decision;
- grant appeals or new trials;
- compensate individuals;
- look into general complaints about the courts or the judicial system as a whole;
- investigate complaints about unnamed judges;
- investigate complaints about lawyers or court employees; or
- investigate complaints about federally appointed judges, that is, judges of the Court of Appeal or Court of Queen's Bench.
All complaints are reviewed first by the Chairperson of the Council's Complaint Committee. He or she may forward the complaint to the Chief Judge and the judge in question for their response. The matter may also be referred to the whole Council and further inquiries may be made by an independent lawyer. If the complaint is sufficiently serious, the Council may arrange for a formal inquiry by a special committee.
The Council examines every complaint closely and as promptly as possible.
There is no deadline for filing complaints, however, it is preferable that complaints be made in a timely fashion. There is no fee for making a complaint. A person does not need to be represented by a lawyer to make a complaint, as the process is accessible to anyone regardless of their knowledge of the legal system or financial resources. The Council takes care to be fair to everyone involved.
Complaints to the Judicial Council must be in writing. A letter is sufficient, as there are no special forms required. The letter should include:
- the name and address of the person making the complaint;
- the judge, court, location, date and circumstances of the conduct; and
- a detailed description of the alleged misconduct.
The letter should be sent to:
Saskatchewan Judicial Council
c/o Nadine Barnes, Executive Officer
2425 Victoria Avenue
Regina SK S4P 4W6
For more information, contact Nadine Barnes at (306) 787-5409.