Complaints about ACT judges or magistrates
Anyone can make a complaint to the ACT Judicial Council (the Council) about 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 can also receive and examine complaints referred to it by the ACT Attorney‑General.
The Council was established on 1 February 2017. The role of the Council is set out in the Judicial Commissions Act 1994. 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 is supported by a Principal Officer and their staff who are the point of contact for people making a complaint. They facilitate communication between a complainant and the Council and also assist the Council to assess complaints and to conduct examinations.
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 judgments, and physical and mental health issues affecting a judicial officer’s ability to perform their duties.
The Judicial Council cannot take complaints about:
- Presidential Members of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). These complaints should be made to the ACT Attorney‑General and not the Council.
- Non-Presidential Members of the ACAT. Information on making a complaint about a Tribunal member is available on the ACAT website.
- Judges or magistrates that are not appointed to either the ACT Supreme Court or ACT Magistrates Court.
- Additional judges of the ACT Supreme Court.
Complaints about court staff rather than judges or magistrates, including registrars. You can find further information regarding complaints of this type here.
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 whether a judgment 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.
Anyone can make a complaint about an ACT judicial officer to the Judicial Council.
Complaints must be in writing. Your complaint must include:
- your name
- your address
- the name of the judicial officer
- a detailed description of the issue.
The Council is unable to accept anonymous complaints.
You can use our online form to lodge your complaint: ACT Judicial Council – Complaint Form.
The form includes guidance that can help you in making your complaint.
If you want to make a complaint about more than one judicial officer please use a separate form for each complaint.
You can also email your complaint to: Principal.Officer@actjudicialcouncil.org.au
or post it to:
ACT Judicial Council
GPO Box 1884
Canberra ACT 2601
You can call 02 6276 0193 for further information.
Staff assisting the Principal Officer will acknowledge your complaint in writing within five working days and will be your point of contact while your complaint is considered.
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.
You or any other person may be asked to provide more information relevant to the complaint.
The Council will conduct a preliminary examination of the complaint and then either:
- dismiss the complaint
- refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction, or
- conduct a full examination of the complaint.
The Council may 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.
The Council and assisting staff are required to conduct all examinations in private, as far as practicable.
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 advise the ACT Attorney‑General.
If the complaint is substantiated and serious enough to warrant considering whether the judicial officer should be removed from their position, the Council can recommend the establishment of a separate judicial commission to examine and report on the complaint. The Legislative Assembly may pass a resolution requiring the removal of a judicial officer based on the judicial commission’s report.