The Chief Judge, or an Associate Chief Judge designated by the Chief Judge, considers every complaint carefully. It is important to the public and to the Provincial Court for judges and justices to maintain a high standard of conduct. The Court’s core values are fairness, integrity, excellence and independence, and a high standard of conduct is essential to maintain those values.
The Provincial Court Act sets out the process the Chief Judge must follow when a complaint about judicial conduct is received. There are three possible stages in the process: examination, investigation, and inquiry.
Stage 1. Examination
When a written complaint about the conduct of a Provincial Court judge or justice (including a judicial justice, judicial case manager and justice of the peace) is received, if it does not raise a conduct issue the complainant (the person making the complaint) is told that.
If a matter does appear to raise a conduct issue a file is opened, the complainant is told the matter will be considered, a copy of the complaint is sent to the judge or justice, and a response is requested from the judge or justice.
After examining the complaint, any relevant materials, and any response received from the judge or justice, the Chief Judge may decide that:
• the complaint lacks merit,
• the complaint can be resolved through corrective or remedial measures, or
• an investigation is warranted.
The Chief Judge then tells the complainant and the judge or justice the result of the examination. If the conduct is considered acceptable, the complainant will be given an explanation. If the conduct is considered unacceptable, the complainant may receive an apology, or the judge or justice may agree to take appropriate education or some other remedial action.
A large majority of complaints conclude at this stage. However, where the complaint raises issues about the judge’s or justice’s fitness for their duties, the Chief Judge may decide that an investigation should be conducted.
Stage 2. Investigation
In this stage of the process the Chief Judge investigates a complaint further and considers any additional relevant materials.
On completing the investigation, the Chief Judge may take corrective action within the powers set out in the Provincial Court Act, or order an inquiry into the fitness of the judge or justice to perform their duties. The Chief Judge will tell the complainant and the judge or justice the outcome of the investigation. The Chief Judge must also give the Attorney General of BC a written report outlining the nature of the investigation, the relevant facts, the findings, and any corrective action taken.
Stage 3. Inquiry
The Chief Judge may order an inquiry to consider the fitness of a judge or justice to perform their duties.
If an inquiry is held, the judge or justice may choose whether to have it conducted by the BC Judicial Council or by a BC Supreme Court judge. In either case, witnesses may be called to testify under oath. The Council or the Supreme Court judge may consider all matters relevant to the fitness of the judge or justice, including:
• mental or physical disability
• failure in the execution of their office
• conduct incompatible with the due execution of the office.
On the conclusion of an inquiry, the Council or the Supreme Court judge may order:
• reinstatement of the judge or justice, with or without a reprimand
• suspension of the judge or justice, with or without salary, for a further period of not longer than 6 months, or
• removal of the judge or justice from office.
In the Court’s history, there have been very few investigations and even fewer inquiries.