Complaints

The Chief Judge handles all complaints regarding the conduct or behaviour of judges, judicial justices and justices of the peace of the Provincial Court, but does not deal with:

  • appeals of their decisions
  • complaints about:
    • judges of other courts
    • court and other staff employed by the provincial government
    • lawyers
    • police, probation officers or correctional officers.

The Provincial Court Act (“the Act”) provides that all complaints about the conduct or behaviour of Provincial Court judges, judicial justices and justices of the peace be made in writing to the Chief Judge who, after examining the complaint, must report in writing to the complainant and to the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace.

Limits on the Chief Judge’s authority
Under the Act, the Chief Judge has the power and the duty to supervise the Court’s judges, judicial justices and justices of the peace. However, the Chief Judge’s authority regarding complaints is supervisory and disciplinary in nature.

It does not include the power to

• change the outcome of a ruling or decision, order a new trial, declare a mistrial, or overturn a decision (These are all remedies that are only available through an appeal or judicial review.)
• order that a particular judge or judicial justice not hear a case.

Many of the letters sent to the Chief Judge raise matters that fall outside the Chief Judge's mandate. These are normally answered by a letter from one of the Court's Legal Officers, possibly suggesting appropriate avenues of inquiry.

Judicial Discipline Process
The Provincial Court Act establishes a judicial discipline process for complaints about the Court’s judges, judicial justices and justices of the peace. It has three possible stages: examination, investigation, and inquiry.

Examination
The Act requires the Chief Judge to examine all complaints about the Court’s judges, judicial justices and justices of the peace, and report in writing to the complainant and the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace following the examination (see Section 22.1(1)).

If a matter appears to raise a conduct or behavioural issue about a Provincial Court judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace, a file is opened, the complainant is told the matter will be considered, and a response to the allegation is requested from the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace.

After examining the complaint and response, the Chief Judge (or an Associate Chief Judge designated for these purposes) decides upon the appropriate course of action. If the behaviour that is the subject of the complaint is considered appropriate, the complainant will be given an explanation. If conduct is found to be inappropriate, the complainant may be provided with an expression of apology or other remedial action may occur. A large majority of matters conclude at this stage.

Investigation
However, if the Chief Judge considers that an investigation is advisable, he or she will conduct an investigation of the fitness of the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace to perform their duties (see section 22.1(2) of the Act).

The Act also permits the provincial Attorney General to direct the Chief Judge to conduct an investigation.

Under the Act, when an investigation is completed, the Chief Judge must send a written report to the Attorney General and the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace concerned, setting out the nature of the investigation, the relevant facts, the findings, and any corrective action taken or recommended.

Inquiry
Section 22.1(3) of the Act gives the Chief Judge the power to take any corrective action considered necessary, including holding an inquiry. When an inquiry is held, the judge, judicial justice or justice of the peace may choose whether to have it conducted by either the Judicial Council or a Supreme Court judge. In the Court’s history, very few investigations have required inquiries.

How to complain
Guidelines for the conduct of judges and judicial justices are found in the Ethical Principles for Judges, for justices of the peace in the Justice of the Peace Code of Ethics and for judicial case managers in the Standards of Conduct.

You may wish to review the summaries of completed complaint examinations found at the end of each Provincial Court’s annual report for examples of the conduct complained of and the results.

Complaints must be submitted in writing by mail, addressed to:

The Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia
Suite 337 - 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
V6Z 2C5
or by fax, to:
The Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia
Fax: (604) 660-1108
or by email to info@provincialcourt.bc.ca

Your correspondence must include:

• your name and mailing address,
• the name of the judge, judicial justice or justices of the peace complained of,
• the court location,
• the court file number (if known),
• the date of the incident, and
• a description of the alleged misconduct in as much detail as possible.

Please note that:

• Anonymous complaints, or complaints without a return address, will not be accepted.
• It is not our practice to acknowledge receipt of, or forward, any messages that contain abusive or intemperate language, or appear to be merely academic or mischievous inquiries.
• Responses provided to complaints are for information only and cannot be used as authority in court proceedings or for other purposes.

This website site and email address do not provide legal advice, comment on specific cases before the courts or advise on individual situations.