This section explains the situations in which a complaint can be filed against a judge and the possible decisions that can be made regarding a complaint.
Judges play a very important role in our justice system. When they say or do things that are unacceptable, citizens lose confidence in and respect for this system. This is why the Conseil de la magistrature has been given responsibility for examining complaints against judges.
Anyone who believes a judge has done or said something contrary to the rules of conduct for judges contained in the Code of Ethics can file a complaint.
Judges must respect these rules at all times, whether in the courthouse or their social lives.
Basically, these rules state that judges must be honest, know the law, follow the law and meet high standards of behaviour.
The rules are expressed in general terms. It is impossible to list all the actions or words considered to be contrary to the Code of Ethics and therefore legitimate reasons for filing a complaint against a judge.
However, here are a few examples:
The actions and words of a judge are always considered in context. For example, if a person is interrupting a witness for the fifth time and a judge cuts this person off abruptly to stop a sixth interruption, it will likely be decided that the judge was firm, not aggressive.
The Conseil de la magistrature cannot change a judgment or order a new trial. It also cannot require a judge to apologize or pay financial compensation to the person making the complaint.
A judgment can only be changed by appealing it.
Under the law, the Conseil de la magistrature has two options: it can reprimand a judge or recommend to the government that the judge be removed. Reprimands are the more common sanction.
A reprimand might not appear to be a very severe sanction. However, judges generally take reprimands very seriously. Reprimands are only used in serious cases. When a reprimand is given, it means that several judges, lawyers and citizens agree that the actions or words were so inacceptable that they should be punished.
Reprimands discourage other judges from behaving the same way. By filing a complaint, citizens ensure that other people who must deal with judges in the future won't be subject to the same kind of conduct. This helps improve the justice system.
A person who is not satisfied with a judgment in a court case and believes the judge made a mistake in applying the law can appeal the judgment. This means that the judgment is taken to another court to see if it should be changed.
In some cases, there is no right to appeal. For example, judgments of the Small Claims Division of the Court of Québec cannot be appealed.
Some judgments can automatically be appealed. Others require permission of the appeals court.
The Conseil de la magistrature is not an appeals court. It cannot change judgments.