Canadian Judicial Council Establishes an Inquiry Committee
Ottawa, 5 April 2007 - The Canadian Judicial Council announced today that there will be an inquiry into the conduct of Mr Justice P.T. Matlow of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The decision was taken following the Council's review of a report from a panel established to review a complaint against Justice Matlow.
In accordance with the Canadian Judicial Council's complaints process, the Judicial Conduct Committee examined the complaint at the outset and determined that further review was needed. As a consequence, a panel made up of five judges was established. The panel then reported back to Council.
The Council reviewed the panel's recommendations and members made the decision to constitute an Inquiry Committee as per the Judges Act, on the basis that the matter may be serious enough to warrant a recommendation that Justice Matlow be removed from his position as a judge. In accordance with Council's complaints procedures, Judicial members of the Inquiry Committee have been appointed and they are: Chief Justice C.K. Wells of Newfoundland and Labrador; Chief Justice F. Rolland of the Superior Court of Quebec; and Justice R. Veale of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory. In addition, the Minister of Justice of Canada is expected to appoint two more members to the Committee. Once the Inquiry Committee is established, its members will investigate the details of the complaint.
Hearings of the Committee are normally held in public and the dates and times of the hearings are announced in a news release posted on the Council's website. After concluding its inquiry, the process is for the Committee to report its findings to the Canadian Judicial Council which would then make recommendations to the Minister of Justice on the matter.
The Canadian Judicial Council is composed of the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts. Information about the Council is available at www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca
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Background Information - Complaints and Inquiries process:
When someone believes that a judge's personal conduct (on or off the bench) is in question, a complaint may be made to the Canadian Judicial Council. The Council examines only issues of conduct and does not review a judge's decision in law.
The complaints process is simple: the complaint must be in writing, and it must concern the conduct of a federally appointed judge. No special forms are necessary. No legal counsel is required. No fees are charged. To the extent possible, the Council reviews anonymous complaints in the same way as complaints that are signed. In recent years, the Council has received about 180 complaints a year.
When a complaint is made, the question before the Council is ultimately whether or not a judge's conduct prevents that judge from discharging his duties as a judge. In such a case, the Council must decide whether or not to recommend that a judge be removed from office. The Council treats complaints very seriously and as expeditiously as possible. The vast majority of complaints is completed within three months.
A complaint is first reviewed by a member of the Judicial Conduct Committee. A complaint can be dismissed when it is clearly frivolous or does not fall within the mandate of the Council. In roughly half of cases, the complaint is studied in more detail and the judge in question, as well as judge's chief justice, are sent a copy of the complaint and asked for their comments. The complaint is often resolved at this stage, with an appropriate letter of explanation to the complainant.
If the complaint cannot be resolved at that stage, the file can be referred to a Panel of up to five judges for further review. When a Panel concludes that the complaint has merit but is not serious enough to move to the next stage (a formal hearing by an Inquiry Committee) then the Panel may close the file with an expression of concern, or may recommend counselling or other remedial measures.
When the complaint may be serious enough to warrant the judge's removal, the Panel can recommend that the Council establish an Inquiry Committee. After completing its investigation, an Inquiry Committee reports its findings to the Canadian Judicial Council. The Council then decides whether or not to recommend to the Minister of Justice of Canada that the judge be removed from office. In accordance with the provision of Canada's Constitution, a judge may be removed from office only after a joint address by Parliament.