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Judicial Conduct Committee

Updates on the Judicial Conduct Committee

4th February 2022

The Judicial Council adopted guidelines in relation to judicial conduct and ethics.

Guidelines concerning Judicial Conduct and Ethics.pdf

The Committee's procedures in relation to making and investigating judicial complaints is well advanced and a draft is available here 

Complaints procedure - 4th February 2022.pdf

28th June 2021

The Judicial Conduct Committee completed its work drafting guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics and submitted them for review by the Board of the Judicial Council pursuant to Section 43 (3) (d) of the Judicial Council Act 2019. The draft guidelines include guidance for judges as to the matters to be considered when deciding on recusal from presiding over legal proceedings.

The Board will in due course review, and may modify, those draft guidelines before the Judicial Council considers them for adoption. Under the provisions of the Judicial Council Act 2019 the latest date that this can be done is 28th June 2022.
 
29th September 2020 

At the second meeting of the Committee, the immediate work programme was agreed to commence the complaints regime, as follows: 

- Drafting of the Guidelines on ethics and conduct  

- Development of the Informal Resolution process  

- Drafting of procedures for making complaints  

Three subcommittees were formed to carry out work on these separate workstreams

Each subcommittee is to meet to commence work within two weeks. Thereafter it may be possible to provide an indicative timeframe for completing this work.  

While recent additional public interest in judicial standards provides an additional impetus to the Committee, the Committee had already decided at the July meeting to deliver the earliest possible results.  

The Committee remains strongly committed to the completion of all work significantly within the timeframe of 30th June 2022 provided for by the Oireachtas in the Judicial Council Act.  

27th July 2020 

The first meeting of the Committee was held.  

The timetable set out in the Judicial Council Act 2019 for completion of the matters required to commence accepting complaints was outlined as follows: 

- 30th June 2021 to submit guidelines to the Board of the Judicial Council 

- 30th June 2022 for the Judicial Council to adopt those guidelines 

It was decided that the Committee should be much more ambitious in completing this work than the statutory timeframes provided for. 

It was agreed that a number of areas of work are required in order to have the complaints process ready to commence as soon as possible. 

The date for the next meeting was fixed for 29th September 2020.  

In the intervening period research is to be carried out on comparable international examples of judicial guidelines on conduct and ethics, and similar procedures for the informal resolution of complaints. In addition, preliminary work on the identification of the steps and procedures required for making complaints is to be investigated.  

21st July 2020  

The Government appointees as members of the Committee were announced, as follows:  

Mr Kieran Coughlan, Ms Claire Archbold, Professor Maeve Conrick, Mr Patrick Doyle and Dr Bernard McCartan 

The following were also announced as appointed for nomination as members of panels of inquiry: 

John Naughton, Eoin Doyle, Molly Buckley, Clodagh Geraghty, James Doorley, Colm Deignan, George Maybury and Rosemary Smyth 

17th July 2020  

The Chief Justice, Chairperson of the Committee, fixed the 27th July 2020 as the date for the first meeting of the Judicial Conduct Committee.  

The Council has not yet been apprised of the names of the lay members of this Committee.
In circumstances where a quorum requires two lay members to be present, the Department of Justice is to be advised of the meeting date so as to ensure that the lay members are appointed by Government in time for the meeting. 

30th June 2020  

The Committee stands established as of today. The first meeting must take place within one month. 

24th June 2020  

An election by all of the eligible members of the Council was held to appoint three judges as members of the Committee.

The judges elected to be members of the Committee are (in alphabetical order) Mr Justice Charles Meenan, Judge Alan Mitchell, and Judge Martin E Nolan. 

5th February 2020  

The Judicial Council Act 2019 provides that the Judicial Council must within six months from today, its first meeting, nominate a date to establish the Judicial Conduct Committee.  

At the first meeting of the Council, the length of time required by Government to carry out the process of recruiting the lay members of the Committee was considered in the context of the establishment date. The Council was reluctant to wait the full six months afforded under the Act, resulting in the first meeting in September 2020. 

The Council decided to establish the Committee on the 30th of June 2020. Given that the first statutory meeting, at which lay members must be in attendance, must be within one month from establishment, it would afford Government sufficient time to complete the process. 

For that reason it was decided not to hold elections of the judges as Committee members at this meeting, and to delay by four months, until June 2020, the election by postal ballot of the judicial members of the Committee.

Background

The role of the Judicial Conduct Committee is set out in Section 43 of the Judicial Council Act 2019. This Committee is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Committee’s objectives are to promote and maintain high standards of conduct among judges. Those standards have regard to stated principles of judicial conduct which require judges to uphold and exemplify judicial independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety (including the appearance of propriety), competence and diligence and to ensure equality of treatment to all persons before the courts.

It is envisaged that this will be achieved through a number of stated functions:

  • Consideration of complaints into the conduct of judges
  • Take any necessary action necessary to safeguard the administration of justice
  • Prepare guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics and draft procedures for the processing of judicial complaints

The Committee is comprised of the following 13 members:

  • The Chief Justice and the four Presidents of the Courts (or their respective nominees)
  • Three judges elected by all of the judges in Ireland (other than the Chief Justice and the four Presidents)
  • Five lay members appointed by Government.

Those members are as follows

  • The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Donal O'Donnell
  • The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice George Birmingham
  • The President of the High Court, Ms. Justice Mary Irvine
  • The President of the Circuit Court, Ms. Justice Patricia Ryan
  • The President of the District Court, Judge Paul Kelly
  • Mr Justice Charles Meenan
  • Judge Martin E. Nolan
  • Judge Alan Mitchell,
  • Mr. Kieran Coughlan
  • Ms. Claire Archbold
  • Professor Maeve Conrick
  • Mr. Patrick Doyle
  • Dr Bernard McCartan.

The Judicial Council Act provides that the Judicial Council nominate a date for establishment of this Committee at its first meeting. That date was fixed as the 30th June 2020 and the first meeting of the Committee took place on the 27th of July 2020. 

 

Work of the Committee

Having been established on 30th June 2020, the initial work of the Committee will be to prepare guidelines dealing with admissibility of judicial complaints, informal resolution of complaints and codes for conduct and ethics.

Complaints about allegations of misconduct by serving judges cannot be made until such time as the relevant sections of the Act dealing with the making and investigation of complaints commenced.

It is expected that those sections of the Act may be commenced once the work is complete and necessary guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council.