Judicial Council’s 2014 Annual Report: continuing transparency in the Provincial Court application process

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The Provincial Court of B.C. was one of the first in Canada to have representatives of the public involved in shaping the court. In 1969 legislation created a Judicial Council responsible for assessing lawyers who apply for appointment as judges or judicial justices and overseeing the education of judges.

Since then, the provincial attorney general has always appointed some people who are neither lawyers nor judges to serve on Judicial Council. Under today’s
Provincial Court Act, the Council consists of nine members. Current membership includes judges, lawyers, a retired police officer, and the principal of a governance consulting company who also teaches at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

The Council has established criteria for judicial appointment that include specific qualities and skills. In order to ensure a high standard of judicial officers, the Council reviews detailed applications and investigates each applicant with the help of the B.C. Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA). The Council interviews applicants who pass this initial screening and recommends the most capable to the Attorney General. While the Council assesses and recommends candidates for appointment as judges and judicial justices, it is the provincial cabinet (officially, the Lieutenant Governor in Council) that selects and appoints judges from among those recommended.

Judicial Council has recognized the need for the province’s judiciary to reflect its diverse makeup. Diversity on the bench strengthens the court and enhances public confidence in the administration of justice. Working relationships among diverse cultures within the Court encourage mutual respect, sensitivity and understanding for people appearing in Court. Diversity on the bench also encourages members of under-represented groups to apply for appointment.

Judicial Council’s first step in encouraging a diverse range of applicants was to be as transparent
as possible about the process while preserving necessary confidentiality. Its publication of application statistics and its strong commitment to a transparent application process was recognized when the Canadian Bar Association described it as "a model of transparency" in a 2013 resolution.

Its second step was to invite the CBA and the Law Society to encourage applications from a diverse range of lawyers. In the last two years the Chief Judge and other judges have spoken at information sessions for lawyers on building diversity on the bench. The Council’s third step, which is ongoing, is to report the results by providing applicants’ gender and background in its Annual Reports.

The Council’s 2014 Annual Report tells us that applications were received from all regions of the province in 2014. And for the first time, more women than men applied and were appointed to the Court. In 2013, the Council revised application forms to include, on a voluntary basis, information relating to the applicant’s ethnic or cultural background. In 2014, 15 applicants (5 male and 10 female) included their ethnic and cultural information. Two indicated Aboriginal heritage, 12 indicated an ethnic or minority group, and 4 another “diverse group”. (Some indicated more than one ethnic background.)

The report indicates that Judicial Council will continue to review and revise its processes to encourage a diverse range of applicants and to make merit-based recommendations that reflect the diversity of British Columbia’s population.

Read the 2014 Annual Report to get more information on Judicial Council’s members, its other statutory responsibilities, and the application process. Find previous annual reports and more information at Judicial Council.