The Judicial Council Act 2019 (Commencement) Order has been signed by justice minister Helen McEntee.
It brings into operation the remaining provisions of the Judicial Council Act 2019 concerning judicial conduct and ethics.
From today (3 October), and for the first time in the history of the State, procedures will be put in place to facilitate complaints about alleged judicial misconduct.
Any complaints about the conduct of a judge that is alleged to constitute judicial misconduct will be addressed under the new procedures from that date onwards.
The Judicial Council was established on 17 December, 2019, pursuant to the 2019 act.
Part five concerns the establishment and role of the judicial conduct committee and the newly operative complaints procedure.
While some provisions have already been started for operational reasons, the bulk of them come into effect today.
Minister McEntee said that the judiciary had provided a “superb service” since the foundation of the State a century ago.
“Maintaining and strengthening public confidence in our judiciary, a foundation stone of our democracy, is crucial, and I am really pleased to bring into effect all remaining sections of the Judicial Council Act 2019.
“These sections deal with judicial conduct and ethics. Crucially, they pave the way for procedures that will facilitate, for the first time in the history of the State, complaints from members of the public about judicial conduct.
“They also set out that a complaint may be made by any person who is directly affected by, or who witnessed, the alleged misconduct within three months of same, as well as the criteria for such complaints to be admissible, and the processes under which these complaints will be examined,” she said.
The minister acknowledged the importance of continued constitutional judicial independence.
The provisions include:
- Circumstances in which a complaint about alleged judicial misconduct can be made to the Registrar of the Judicial Council,
- A time limit of three months within which a complaint can be made alleging judicial misconduct,
- A complaint may be made by any person who is directly affected, or who witnessed, the alleged judicial misconduct,
- The complaint must not be frivolous or vexatious, and it must also be the case that the conduct could, if substantiated, constitute judicial misconduct,
- When a complaint is admissible, it is referred to the Judicial Conduct Committee,
- The circumstances in which a reprimand may be issued to a judge concerned, which could include advice, recommendation of a specific course of action – including training and admonishment,
- The committee may require the judge concerned to report on compliance with a requirement specified in a reprimand,
- Allowing for the investigation into alleged judicial misconduct in the absence of a complaint,
- Allow for investigation by a panel of inquiry to be established by the Judicial Conduct Committee,
- Setting out the procedures to be followed in the event that a matter requires the referral to the minister for the proposal of a motion under article 35.4.1 of the Irish Constitution.
Section 6 of the act provides that: “The council shall, subject to the provisions of this act, be independent in the performance of its functions.”
The six main pillars of the council’s remit are to promote:
- Excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions,
- High standards of conduct among judges,
- The effective and efficient use of resources made available to judges for the purposes of the exercise of their functions,
- Continuing education of judges,
- Respect for the independence of the judiciary, and
- Public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice.